Radioactive milk was found recently on a Belarus farm by a team of reporters from the Associated Press. The dangerously radioactive milk was discovered just in time for the 30th anniversary of the devastating Chernobyl disaster, but the owner of the dairy farm claims that his milk is actually safe.
According to Radio Free Europe, AP reporters recently visited the edge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Belarus on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown. Although Chernobyl is located in Ukraine, radioactive fallout from the explosion and fire at the doomed nuclear plant reached neighboring countries, including Belarus.
One farm that the AP reporters visited is reportedly located less than 30 miles from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear plant. According to the Toronto Sun, the site is so close to the exclusion zone that signs warning, “Stop! Radiation!” are found just down the road.
Nikolai Chubenok, the owner of the farm, offered the reporters a glass of freshly-drawn milk, which they accepted, but did not drink. The sample of milk was instead taken to a lab, which found levels of radioactive isotopes 10 times higher than Belarusian authorities allow in food products.
When confronted with this information, the farmer denied that there was any chance that his milk could possibly be radioactive or that radiation is even something to be concerned about.
“There is no danger,” the farmer told the Associated Press. “How can you be afraid of radiation?”
The Associated Press reports that Chubenok’s operation is part of the supply chain for Milkavita, which sells Parmesan cheese in Russia. Milkavita was also presented with the independent laboratory findings, but the company claimed that it was “impossible” for any milk in their supply chain to be dangerously radioactive.
Milkavita also claims that milk is tested for radiation before entering the supply chain and that all of their milk, including milk from Chubenok’s farm, has tested well within safety limits.
“It’s impossible,” Milkavita chief engineer Maia Fedonchuk told the Associated Press. “We do our own testing. There must have been a mix-up.”
According to the test commissioned by the AP, the radioactive isotope strontium-90 was found in levels 10 times higher than those allowed by Belarusian authorities. The test was not sophisticated enough to test for heavier isotopes, which may have also been present, but strontium-90 itself settles into bones like calcium and has been linked to both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Milkavita told the AP that their overall supply chain of milk contains about 2.85 becquerels per kilogram of strontium-90, which is lower than the 3.7 allowed by the Belarusian Agricultural Authority. However, the Toronto Sun reports that ingredients and products in Belarus and neighboring countries are often blended, so that highly radioactive sources like the milk from Chubenok’s farm are mixed with less radioactive sources to come in under the limit.
The Associated Press reports that farmers like Chubenok are often left without guidance on how to deal with lingering radiation, as Belarus pushes to reclaim lost land for agricultural use. For instance, there are products that can help remove radioactive isotopes from the digestive systems of cattle before they can be deposited in milk, but Chubenok said he had never heard of such a thing.
Miles closer to Chernobyl, and located within the exclusion zone, the AP reporters also spoke to the director of a test farm that has operated in the highly irradiated area for the last decade.
“We’re not afraid of radiation. We’ve already gotten used to it,” Kirpichenko, director of the experimental operation, told the Associated Press. “Horses aren’t being born with two heads or without legs. There are no such mutations.”
Kirpichenko said that 100 horses from his experimental herd were sold last year to a producer of a fermented mares’ milk beverage.
Do you think that the AP testing could have somehow been wrong or is some Belarusian milk actually dangerously radioactive?
[Photo by AP Photo/Sergei Grits]