A spike in the levels of dangerous radioactive chemicals has been recorded across Europe.
Air quality stations across the continent detected traces of radioactive Iodine-131 in January – but scientists are yet to work out where the particles came from.
Traces of Iodine-131 were first recorded in Norway and have now been found in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain.
The isotope has a half-life of only eight days, which suggests the particles must have entered the atmosphere after a recent event.
The pattern of movement of the particles suggests they may have originated in Eastern Europe, according to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA).
‘It was rough weather in the period when the measurements were made, so we can’t trace the release back to a particular location,’ Astrid Liland, head of emergency preparedness at the NRPA, told the Barents Observer.
‘Measurements from several places in Europe might indicate it comes from Eastern Europe.
‘Increased levels of radioactive iodine in air were made in northern-Norway, northern-Finland and Poland in week two, and in other European countries the following two weeks.’
She said it is difficult to pinpoint where the radioactive material came from.
But it’s possible that the particles could have come from an incident at a nuclear reactor.
The compounds may have also come from an Iodine plant. The isotope Iodine-131 is used in medicine to treat to thyroid problems and is produced commercially across Europe.
Iodine-131 can cause harm because it has a very short half life of just eight days, making it very radioactive.
When it is present in high levels in the environment, it can contaminate food and after it is swallowed it accumulates in the thyroid.
As it decays, it damages body tissue and can cause thyroid cancer.
However levels present in the atmosphere today are too low to be damaging, according to Ms Liland.
She said: ‘We do measure small amounts of radioactivity in air from time to time because we have very sensitive measuring equipment.
‘The measurements at Svanhovd in January were very, very low. So were the measurements made in neighbouring countries, like Finland.
‘The levels raise no concern for humans or the environment.’
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