Actually, this question is urgent and appropriate today, although 20 years have already passed since the accident. According to the latest research of the DE “Ecocenter”, the major part of the hunting fauna living in the peripheral areas along the southern boundaries of the Chornobyl zone has body contamination many times (sometimes ten times) exceeding the permissible levels (DU-97: 90Sr – 20 Bq/kg, 137Cs – 200 Bq/kg). The latter statement is usually true for at least one radionuclide. This is due not only to a rather high level of soil contamination, but also due to a weak ability of poor Polesye soils for keeping radionuclides. The more acid the soils are (peat-boggy, moistured), the more contaminated animals and plants live there. It refers to 137Cs. But in “empty” sands, there is intensive 90Sr penetration into the animals’ organisms.
This is only one side of the problem. Another one is related to season changes in the animals’ food. In the course of a year, average contamination of wild animals changes dozens of times. For example, in summer and in autumn, when there are lots of mushrooms, lovers of this food (the roe deer, for instance) become more contaminated than during the other seasons. This also refers to the man, who gathers mushrooms within contaminated areas. Though, the boars, on the contrary, become the most contaminated when they begin eating mainly roots, maggots, and another soil inhabitants. It happens in winter, although, adult boars root up the ground in another season too. At the end of summer, when plenty of fruit (apples, pears, plums) ripe in the gardens and crops in the field, the boars are “the cleanest”. Hunting is forbidden at this time.
Finally, everyone knows that animals can migrate over long distance. Thus, you will never be sure that animals have come from somewhere, from the center of the zone.
All but the same can be told about the game birds. The only exception is that birds are exposed to contamination quicker than animals, but their organisms’ ability for “clearance” is better. However, it is hardly worth hoping that all ducks in lowland areas of the Uzh River will be “clean” enough. For sure, there will be those that contain more cesium and strontium that it should be.
Therefore, if you cannot give up hunting, you have only one way out: check radioactive contamination of all your game. The most common devices can be found in all regional SES.
(The question was answered by S.P. Gashchak, Deputy Director for Science, International Radioecology Laboratory)