18 Nov 2016

Radioactive fallout and alimentary countermeasures

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We are pleased to share with you this excerpt of a study by Prof. Giorgio Fusconi, Researcher at the University of Piacenza, published in the Scientific American magazine, and dedicated to the role of clay in organism protection against radiation.

“The integration of a common clay, bentonite, in cattle feed has consented to obtaining reductions of 60 to 80 percent in the contamination of milk and meat from caesium-137 and caesium-134.”

In the brief history of the employment of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in particular for the production of electrical energy, there have been several incidents that have resulted in the liberation of more or less significant quantities of radioactive material into the external environment. The most serious incident at a nuclear power station was undoubtedly that of April 26, 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine, when the leakage of a significant quantity of radioactive material occurred.

The radioactive fallout bears an environmental contamination that has an impact on all levels of the food chain. While for plants the main source of contamination is direct and given by the deposition of radioactive particles on the surface of the leaves, for animals and man it is mainly indirect and represented by the ingestion of contaminated food.

Among the foods consumed by humans that can transport the largest quantity of radionuclides to the body are vegetables, meat and milk; the latter in particular is a food with a high risk for children.

Animals in zootechnical production are generally fed with products of plant origin and some of these, particularly fodder, may be significantly contaminated following a radioactive fallout.

The introduction of effective techniques for reducing the transfer of radionuclides in these food matrices would thus lead, in emergency situations due to nuclear accidents, a lower health risk to man and could avoid the destruction of large quantities of contaminated food.
The integration of food supplements based on clays to rations for dairy cows consisting of fodder or other food contaminated due to radioactive fallout leads to an appreciable reduction in the levels of activity of the milk.

 Bentonite is the most effective clay in reducing the level of contamination in milk. The integration of bentonite in the diet of dairy cows had no adverse effect, neither on the mineral metabolism of the animals nor the appetising nature of the food. In emergency situations, its use could be extended on a large scale by integrating the bentonite in commercial feed without the need for individual farmers to be called upon to take any action.

The results obtained in the tests conducted confirm the effectiveness of bentonite in notably reducing the intestinal absorption of caesium-137 and caesium-134 and consequently the activity levels in milk and meat.

 The use of bentonite as a preventative measure to reduce contamination of foods of animal origin in emergency situations could be applied on a large scale by integrating the clay, at appropriate levels, in feed of industrial or business production without the individual farmer having to make any changes in livestock feeding techniques.”