'Shocking' report finds radioactive vegetables

Radioactive levels three times higher than permitted have been found in vegetables grown in wetlands in the Wonderfonteinspruit area between Randfontein and Potchefstroom, Beeld newspaper reported on Saturday.

It cited what it described as “shocking revelations” on Friday in a report by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation drawn up at the request of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) some time back, but only released now.

The newspaper said tests on asparagus, oats and onions produced in the Gerhard Minne wetlands showed that the level of radioactive substances was three times higher than the safe permissible level for human consumption.

Pointing out that intensive gold mining takes place in the area—and that uranium as a by-product is found in mine dumps there—the news report said large tracts of land in the area of the Wonderfonteinspruit were 150 times more radioactive than the permitted level.

It quoted an unidentified spokesperson for the NNR as saying on Friday that the test results in the report were worrying.

Other vegetables grown in the area, such as cabbage, beetroot and spinach, will now also be tested for traces of lead, cadmium, arsenic, zinc and cobalt.

Higher-than-permitted radioactive substances in food get into humans’ bloodstream. It can lead to fatal kidney failure and various forms of cancer.

The NNR spokesperson was further indirectly quoted to the effect that tests may be carried out on people who ate the vegetables and that larger-scale tests would be carried out on cattle and milk produced in the area.—Sapa

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