Portable danger

29.11.2013 | Leonid Uzvar

How to monitor radioactive background around oneself

It seems that the hysteria over food products with harmful additives has reached its peak and not a moment goes by without another scandal over the quality and content of such products in Ukraine. In some candies there are antibiotics and mushrooms and Christmas trees glow in the dark from radiation. Generally speaking, it is becoming more and more frightening to live. After all, how many more untested products are there lying on the shelves of supermarkets that consumers scoop up? It seems that there is only one solution: buy yourself a measuring device and test the safety of the environment on your own

No fears for those born after Chornobyl

Kyiv is situated 140 km from the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station. In April 1986, a nuclear reactor at Chornobyl blew up, which led to the spread of radioactive substances across the entire territory of Ukraine. The scale of the disaster was massive radioactive waste blanketed Belarus and seriously contaminated the European regions of Russia. Being located relatively close to Chornobyl the capital of Ukraine was exposed to intensive radioactive fallout.

The radiation background in Kyiv increased hundreds of times over. Before the explosion at Chornobyl the natural background in Kyiv was within the range of 15-40 micro-Roentgens per hour (the equivalent of 0.015-0.04 milli-Roentgens per hour). It should be noted that in the largest cities of Ukraine the level of the radiation background is always higher than in suburban towns. This is what is known as the technogenically heightened background.

The maximum level of gamma radiation was immediately observed in Kyiv when the radioactive cloud appeared over the city from April 30 to May 2, 1986, reaching 1-2 milli-Roentgens per hour. Within a weak the level dropped to 0.2-0.5 milli-Roentgens per hour.

Radioactive substances reached Kyiv not only in the form of radioactive fallout. In June 1986, scientists discovered radioactive contamination in the waters and sediments of the Dnipro River.

Noteworthy is that the Kyiv water repository was a solid barrier to the spreading of radioactive nuclides in the waters of the Dnipro. In essence, the Kyiv Sea held back the spread of radio-nuclides from Chornobyl. Today, most of the radioactivity is restrained in the sludgy sediments on the bottom of the Kyiv water repository. For this reason, it is highly recommended to not go swimming or fishing in these waters. According to the estimates of experts, the general background of gamma radiation in Kyiv is within permissible norms from 0.019 milli-Roentgens per hour in the districts on the left bank of the Dnipro to 0.045 milli-Roentgens per hour in districts on the right bank of the river.

For those born "before"

Unfortunately, the consequences of Chornobyl can be felt to this day. Today, one can accidentally buy some berries and mushrooms that grow in the Chornobyl zone, fish in the Prypyat River and many other bounties of Mother Nature on any open-air market in Kyiv and in other regions of Ukraine. Residents of the Rivne, Zhytomyr, Volyn and Kyiv oblasts, which are situated around Chornobyl consume contaminated products and sell them in other regions.

Not so long ago environmentalists of the international organization Greenpeace conducted a study and discovered that more than 90% of the milk in several villages in the Rivne oblast contained an impermissible high level of radioactive Cesium-137. Ukrainian scientists are aware of this fact. Those who work at the Scientific Research Institute of Agricultural Radiology at the National University of Bio-resources of Ukraine say that today milk in 80 villages in the Rivne and Zhytomyr oblasts is contaminated with radioactive cesium due to the distinctive features of the local soil on which plants that cattle feed on are grown.

The prognostications of scientists are not comforting: residents of Ukraine will for many years continue to consume food products that are contaminated by radiation because the state does not allocate the funds necessary to take counter-measures, for example for the development of soil using special chemicals.

Experts in this field can only advise people to thoroughly wash and boil berries and mushrooms. If you thoroughly wash mushrooms, soak them in pure cold water for 15 minutes and then add them to cereal, the level of cesium will be 10 times lower than the level they contained before being washed.

The State Veterinarian and Phyto-sanitation Service is responsible for controlling the level of radiation in food products sold in grocery stores, supermarkets and on open-air markets. It controls the content of radio-nuclides in all products. Without the corresponding inspection of products farmers will not be issued the necessary certificate of purity and quality.

Unlicensed markets and grannies selling radioactive potatoes, berries, mushrooms and milk on the sidewalks are the main problem. So, before putting products gathered in the garden up for sale one should do the due diligence of testing them with a radiation testing device. In order to check the level of radiation of contaminated food products all you have to do is turn on the tester and scan the product. The results of the test will show up on the screen in a matter of seconds and if the level of radiation exceeds the norm the tester will give a sound signal.

The radiation dosage testers Terra-P (household) and Terra (professional) under the Ukrainian made Ecotest brand name come highly recommended. Similar testers developed Belarus scientists are also available on the market in Ukraine DKG-PM 12083M, SIG PM1208M (in the form of a wristwatch) and MKS-AT6130, though mind you they are twice the price of similar testers made in Ukraine: Terra-P (UAH 800) and Terra (UAH 1,700). The Belarus models DKG-PM and SIG-Pm sell for UAH 4,000 and the MKS-AT for UAH 6,800. These testers are available for sale in home hardware or construction materials stores or through the Internet.

How to examine your home

To this day there are many radioactive substances lying around in apartments, for example, in old books, on paintings, stuffed toys, blankets and pillows they all absorbed radiation like a sponge.

Besides that, earlier radioactive elements were widely used in making different household devices such as watches and compasses. If there are similar relics in the apartment you are renting, you should check them for radioactivity. This is imperative if members of your family are suffering from some ailments that lead to decreasing immunity. One is well advised to take the same due diligence before buying or renting an apartment.

Should you have any suspicions that there is some source of radioactivity in the apartment, go to the website of the sanitation and epidemiology station at This body monitors radiation safety and its experts should have all the necessary equipment to do a thorough inspection of residences for radiation. It is better to order a comprehensive inspection not only for sources of radioactivity, but other extremely unpleasant phenomena, such as chemical contamination, noise pollution, vibrations, etc. The fee for inspection of a 60 sq. m. apartment is around UAH 500.

If for some reason the sanitation and epidemiology department refused to do an inspection, appeal to the State Ecological Inspection Department ( If you dont get the results you expected from either of these departments, take things into your own hands. Go out and buy a dosage tester and dont forget to have it tested and check that the instruction booklet and quality certificate have the necessary seal and the appropriate date. The dosage tester should have a digital scale. Closely read the instructions and measure all corners of the apartment for radiation. As a rule, you press a button and view the display screen in order to determine what level of radiation complies with the norm. Go through your apartment meter by meter with the testing device. If somewhere the norms designated in the instruction booklet are exceeded, test all objects in the room. Once you detect the sources of radiation contamination, immediately call experts at the local Emergency Situations Department as they are responsible for dealing with this task

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