Archive for Contamination
Restrictions placed on hundreds of UK sheep farms as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 are to be lifted after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found that the risk to eating lamb or mutton is now “very low”. The controls were originally placed on 9,800 upland farms holding more than 4 million sheep in Wales, northern Scotland, and northern Ireland after rain dumped contaminated water from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster some 1,600 miles away. Only 334 farms however, of which just 8 are outside Wales, have been recommended to have these restrictions lifted. The restrictions dictate that farmers had to call in officials to check their highland sheep for radioactive poisoning by the element caesium. In return, the farmers receive £1.30 per sheep. If the animal passes the test, it is allowed to be slaughtered, but if it fails then it is marked with dye and not allowed to be killed until retested 3 months down the line. These sheep can only be decontaminated naturally by being moved down from upland pastures, where caesium remains in soil and grass.
www.nytimes.com 3rd August 2011
The oil and gas industry has maintained that fracking, the process of hydraulic fracturing whereby water and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the bedrock to release natural gas reserves, has absolutely no effect on drinking water supplies. The reason behind this certification, industry officials say, is that fracking occurs thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers therefore it is impossible for the chemicals used in the process to enter the water. However, a report published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1987 describes hydraulic drilling carried out by the Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company contaminated a well belonging to a Mr James Parsons of West Virginia not 600 feet away. Furthermore, the EPA have claimed that there may be more cases out there that will never see the light of day due to sealed settlements made between fracking companies and those affected by the contaminated water. This made it impossible for EPA researchers to investigate cases due to the lawsuits. “I still don’t understand why industry should be allowed to hide problems when public safety is at stake,” said Carla Greathouse, the author of the E.P.A. report that documents a case of drinking water contamination from fracking. “If it’s so safe, let the public review all the cases.” The American Petroleum Institute has denied such claims, instead referring to ‘countless academic, federal and state investigators’ who have ‘conducted extensive research on groundwater contamination issues, and have found that drinking water contamination from fracking is highly improbable.’
Japanese agricultural officials have warned that more than 500 cattle slaughtered for Japanese supermarkets have been infected by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster several months ago. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was severely damaged in the tsunami of March this year, which devastated the Japanese coastline after an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck off the nation’s coast. Beef has now joined a wide variety of foodstuffs that have tested positive for radioactive cesium including spinach, tea, milk and fish. Officials blame the cattle meat contamination on hay left outside during the nuclear fallout. This hay has been found as far away from the plant as 85 miles implying the fallout was wider than initially thought. Attention now turns to the Japanese government who have been unwilling to extend the ban on food exports from just a 12 miles radius of the plant. The reason behind this decision was to reduce the amount of people put out of work and also the amount of compensation claims levelled against Tokyo Electric Power, the operating company of Fukushima. With the amount of contamination reports on the rise though, the government have now banned meat shipments from the entire of the Fukushima prefecture, an area of 5700 square miles. Farmers from the area still claim they are being kept out of the loop and have had no information from the government on how to tackle the problem.
www.nytimes.com 20th September 2010
The surrounding countryside of the old Chernobyl nuclear power-station has become a surprising haven for wildlife. In 1986 the reactor exploded showering the forest in radioactive particles that filtered down into the ground contaminating the soil. Since then the area has been off-limits to people allowing the wildlife to adapt in its own way to the disaster. A recent study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has discussed how plants have survived in the face of high radiation levels. A team of researchers entered the fallout sight and grew flax seeds in the radioactive soil. They then harvested the saplings and compared them to flax plants grown in healthy soil. The contaminated plants showed a 5% difference in protein levels that shielded them from excess radiation. Although the plants are far from edible, the new robust structure could be used in future agricultural practices.