Radioactive contamination of fungi – Cesium 137 Radiation exposure of chestnut boletus, chanterelle mushrooms and cards

radioactive contamination of mushrooms - readings, researchThe increased radioactivity of fungi has been known since the global nuclear weapon fallout and was extensively investigated after the Chernobyl reactor accident. In Europe, due to the half-life of around 30 years, the radiation exposure of forest mushrooms is now largely caused by cesium 137.
Undisturbed forest soils form a sink for many substances. Due to the special dynamics of forest soils, radiocesium and other pollutants often remain in the humus layer or in the uppermost mineral soil layers. It is precisely in these soil layers that the mycelia of many fungi are located and from here supply their aboveground fruit bodies with nutrients. It is therefore not surprising that they accumulate radionuclides. And the radiation exposure of humans caused by radioactivity from mushrooms will remain an issue

The main results are:
The regional cesium-137 deposition by the Chernobyl fallout and thus the level of the Cs-137 contamination of the soil plays an important role for the level of radioactivity of the fungi
The location conditions (soil type, pH value, soil moisture, etc.) are a major influencing factor
Fungi accumulate Cs-137 species-specifically (genetically determined ability to accumulate)
The cesium-137 measured values ​​fluctuate considerably in small locations even with the same species (up to a factor of 10)

Cesium 137 readings ​​on the radiation exposure of fungi from Germany

The radioactivity of mushrooms, in particular the edible mushrooms consumed by the population, is regularly checked on a random basis and measured values ​​are published. Measurements are carried out on behalf of federal authorities and also state institutions. Due to the increased cesium-137 deposition caused by the Chernobyl fallout in the federal states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the relevant state offices are increasingly examining samples of fungi for radioactive contamination. For example the Bavarian State Office for the Environment. has investigated the radioactive contamination of fungi in several research projects commissioned by the BMU since 1986. The research projects were mainly carried out in areas of southern Germany that are particularly affected by the Chernobyl fallout. In addition, our own investigations were carried out.

In some regions of Germany particularly affected by the Chernobyl fallout, especially in southern Germany, cesium 137 contamination over 600 Bq / kg fresh weight can occur occasionally or regularly in some types of fungus.

For wild mushrooms, these pollution trends apply to all of Germany:

  • Relatively high Cs 137 exposure: chestnut boletus, ivory snail, bread stubble, pig’s ear
  • Medium exposure: boletus, red-footed boletus
  • Relatively low Cs 137 exposure: honey mushrooms, chanterelles, goat lip

Own research

In 2018, some mushroom samples were taken in an area of the Bavarian Forest National Park. The area is one of the areas most heavily contaminated by the Chernobyl fallout in Germany. The cesium-137 and potassium-40 activity measurements of the fungus samples were carried out at the laboratory for radioisotopes of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. The measurement error was <10%. The results are given in Table 1.

Tab. 1: Cesium-137 activity of chestnuts and porcini mushrooms from the Bavarian Forest National Park. Date of discovery 18.09.2018

Fund date Species Species Cs-137 [Bq/kg FW] Cs-137 [Bq/kg DW]
18.09.2018 Chestnut boletus Imleria badia 2924 28660
18.09.2018 Chestnut boletus Imleria badia 2983 30520
18.09.2018 Chestnut boletus Imleria badia 1612 21250
18.09.2018 Chestnut boletus Imleria badia 1011 8364
18.09.2018 Boletus Boletus edulis 659 5376
18.09.2018 Boletus Boletus edulis 651 6235
18.09.2018 Boletus Boletus edulis 560 5384

The Cesiums 137 activity is given based on fresh weight (FW) and dry weight (DW). The species-typical differences in the Cs-137 contamination between chestnuts and boletus are clearly visible.
We investigated the correlation of the cesium 137 activity in the soil with the mycelium occurrence of different types of fungi by means of DNA sequencing.

Radioactivity in chestnut boletus, chestnut bolete – Imleria badia (Syn.Xerocomus badius, Boletus badius)

The chestnut boletus, belonging to the boletaceae, are popular edible mushrooms. The chestnut boletus is widespread all over Europe, with a focus on coniferous forests. The Röhrling occurs almost everywhere in Germany, likes to grow in acidic locations and is, for example, a mushroom popular with mushroom collectors in the Bavarian Forest.

Many older mushroom pickers are still familiar with the scientific species name Xerocomus badius. However, molecular biological, genetic and morphological analyzes had shown that the Xerocomus badius does not belong to the Xerocomus group, Gelari et al. (2013), Šutaras (2008). Vizzini renamed the species Imleria badia in 2014 after creating the genus Imleria. Vizzini named the generic name Imleria in honor of the Belgian mycologist Louis Imler (1900-1993).
The mycelium of the chestnut boletus is classified as a long distance exploration type (Agerer 1990).

Chestnut boletus are one of the types of mushrooms that accumulate cesium 137 particularly strongly. From the 2018 mushroom report, the BfS gives 150 and 85 Bq / kg fresh weight for Freising, 150 Bq / kg for Siegenburg, 510 Bq / kg for Aufham / Högl, 400 Bq / kg and 39 Bq / kg.

In the long term, the radiation exposure of chestnut boletus (Imleria badia) due to radiocesium decreases. Figure 01 shows the time course of the contamination for Lower Saxony. The decrease in cesium 137 activity since 1986 and the higher exposure compared to boletus and honey fungus can be clearly seen.


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Index Fungorum – Imleria

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