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'Radioactive' boars roaming northern Italy
Wild boars contaminated with nuclear radiation are roaming northern Italy. Photo/Piedmontm.prinke/Flickr

'Radioactive' boars roaming northern Italy

Published: 13 Dec 2013 12:15 GMT+01:00
Updated: 13 Dec 2013 12:15 GMT+01:00

Following the discovery of wild boars contaminated with nuclear radiation in the northern Italian Piedmont region earlier in the year, the Ministry of Health has found two more cases, this time near Trieste, over 500km away.

Aris Prodani, a local MP for Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, requested the investigation following the discovery of 27 boars in Piedmont this March,  which were contaminated by radioactive isotope caesium-137, local newspaper Trieste All News reported.

Similar cases have also been reported in Austria and Bavaria, 

The Italian Ministry of Health have now confirmed that two of the boars examined by ARPA, the local Agency for the Protection of the Environment in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, contained over 600 becquerels, the unit for measuring radioactivity, per kilogram. This is the limit above which meat cannot legally be sold commercially. 

The Ministry of Health issued a statement saying that for any danger to be posed, 10-15kg of meat contaminated at a level of 5000bq/kg would have to be eaten annually, a situation they described as “decidedly improbable”. They said “the situation should not arouse excessive worry among the population."

According to ARPA, the contamination is most likely due to fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. "The Ministry has assured us that monitoring of radioactivity is constant, but when it comes to the health of our citizens, it is fundamental to keep our guard up," Prodani was quoted in Trieste All News as saying.

He added that the news should be "a cause for serious reflection on the part of local administrators, who only a few days ago said that nuclear energy was the only way businesses could obtain energy at low costs."

There are currently no nuclear power plants in operation in Italy, and a referendum following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 led to the cancellation of plans for any new nuclear reactors to be built, but it remains a topic of debate.

The boar enjoys high status in Italy, being both a luxury meat found in many butcher's shops, and the historic symbol for the city of Milan.

Wild boar hunting remains popular, though most hunts take place on private, members-only estates, and the animals are known to be dangerous and occasionally aggressive to humans, particularly when protecting piglets. Most deaths associated with boar-hunting, however, are caused by hunters accidentally shooting another person, and in 2010 an heir to one of Italy's oldest aristocratic families was killed in such an incident.

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Catherine Edwards (catherine.edwards@thelocal.com)

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