Radiation can be pretty terrifying. We’ve all heard the stories of what happened in places like Chernobyl and the dangers of nuclear fallout.
But what if you weren’t just in a place like that, but actually ate something that was radioactive? Well, this may sound a bit surprising, but you probably already have… at least to some extent That’s because many of the foods that you eat are actually radioactive. This can happen in a bunch of different ways.
Radioactive materials in the soil can get into your crops, and fish and shellfish can pick it up from the water they’re swimming in or the seafloor.
Radioactive materials can even get into your /water/. Radiation can also sometimes show up in your food after you humans perform nuclear tests
and discharge radioactive materials into the environment. And you can find some of the more radioactive foods as you’re strolling around your local
grocery store. These may include bananas, which can contain a radioactive isotope called potassium-40, and Brazil nuts, which can have radium levels over 1000 times what you might see in other foods. And it’s not just food and water. Some amounts of radiation can be found all around you.
It can even be in the air that you breathe. But before you get all worried and start walking around in a Hazmat suit, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. The radiation we’re talking about here isn’t on the same level of what comes along with atomic bombs and nuclear fallout.
So then what if you were to take a bite of food that was way more radioactive? Something with more dangerous levels than what we just talked about. Maybe some food that was affected by nuclear fallout. While it can be hard to tell for certain what it would do to you, we can get an idea of what might happen by looking at the effects that consuming radioactive material like that has on other animals. Let’s look at a 2014 study done on the biological impacts of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in Japan. In this study, researchers wanted to know what would happen if larvae of the pale blue grass butterfly consumed leaves that were tainted by radioactive materials, in this case radioactive cesium, that they collected from the polluted localities.
When the larvae were fed the leaves, mortality and abnormality rates sharply went up at low doses in response to the cesium that they were ingesting. So basically, it wasn’t good. The researchers also concluded that, at least for the pale blue grass butterfly, it was realistic for them to have a polluted diet after something like a nuclear power plant accident, and that the same could likely be said for other organisms living in the polluted area. Again, not that great of news. So like these butterflies, your mortality and abnormality rates could go up after eating highly radioactive food. And according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, one way radium can enter your body is if it is swallowed. If this happens, some of it can enter the blood stream and be carried to other parts of your body, like your bones! And if you are exposed to high levels of radium over a long period of time, it can result in things like anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, or even cancer.