Your firewood ash is radioactive & wildfire is nuclear fallout


While cleaning ashes from his fireplace two years ago, Stewart A. Farber mused that if trees filter and store airborne pollutants, they might also harbor fallout from the nuclear weapons tests of the 1950s and 1060s. On a whim, he brought some of his fireplace ash to Yankee Atomic Electric Co.’s environmental lab in Bolton, Mass., where he manages environmental monitoring. Farber says he was amazed to discover that his sample showed the distinctive cesium and strontium “signatures” of nuclear fallout – and that the concentration of radioactivity “was easily 100 times greater than anything [our lab] had ever seen in an environmental sample.”

Please value the writer & producer of these words: Science News – August 10, 1991

Since then, he has obtained wood-ash radioactivity assays from 16 other scientists across the nation. These 47 data sets, representing trees in 14 states, suggest that fallout in wood ash “is a major source of radioactivity released into the environment,” Farber says. With the exception of some very low California readings, all measurements of ash with fallout-cesium exceeded – some by 100 times or more – the levels of radioactive cesium that may be released from nuclear plants (about 100 picocuries per kilogram of sludge).

Ash-cesium levels were especially high in the Northeast – probably because naturally high levels of nonradioactive cesium in the soil discourage trees from releasing fallout-derived cesium through their roots, he says. Industrial wood burning in the United States generates an estimated 900,000 tons of ash each year; residential and utility wood burning generates another 543,000 tons.


Already, many companies are recycling this unregulated ash in fertilizers. The irony, Farber says, is that federal regulations require releases from nuclear plants to be disposed of as radioactive wastes if they contain even 1 percent of the cesium and strontium levels detected in the ash samples from New England. If ash were subject to the same regulations, he says, its disposal would cost U.S. wood burners more than $30 billion annually.

Please value the writer & producer of these words: Science News – August 10, 1991

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Comments (6)

More on toxins released in wildfiresMay 3rd, 2009 at 6:41 pm

CHEMICALS: Scientists find new toxin in pine tree fires (Friday, May 1, 2009)
In a discovery that may change how scientists view the impact of forest fires on human health, researchers have found that burning pine trees emit a new class of chemicals from a family of compounds known for their ability to alter human DNA.

Alkaloids, which are found naturally in plants, can be key nutrients for some organisms and can have a beneficial effect on humans. But in high enough doses, they can be potent toxins.

A team of researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has found close to 100 different alkaloids in microscopic smoke particles floating up from laboratory-simulated forest fires.

“When roots, leaves and needles get burned, these chemicals can be released without modification into the atmosphere,” said researcher Alexander Liskin. “They can be translated as aerosol particles hundreds or thousands of miles. It is possible that there is an impact on humans, animals, and that they get into the groundwater.

But the study is preliminary, Laskin said, and much remains to be discovered about how the particles interact with water vapor, sunlight and other aerosols once airborne (Michael Reilly, Discovery Channel/MSNBC, April 30).

khaosMay 31st, 2009 at 1:03 pm

this is fascinating – never thought of that! wow.

fiat lupiNovember 30th, 2009 at 7:12 am

Has this research ever been repeated or retested?

Amicus CuriaMarch 22nd, 2011 at 10:56 am

You can find more on this topic as it relates to BioMassacre at:

It’s titled: Medical Report on How Wood Smoke Kills

There are a number of links to expert articles on the topic. I’ve been raising this concern, among others, on how our air is being contaminated, but have received little notice to this health hazard.

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