Children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts can contain unusually high levels of radioactive radium

30-Nov-2023
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Apples, walnuts and almonds are among the traditional Santa Claus gifts. However, if you want to give children something healthy to snack on in the run-up to Christmas, you should avoid Brazil nuts. This is because Brazil nuts can contain unusually high levels of radioactive radium - a special case in comparison to other types of nuts, especially domestic ones. According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), these nuts are therefore also not a good choice for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Radium is a radioactive element that occurs naturally in soil. Brazil nut trees can absorb it with their roots and transport it into the nuts. These jungle giants are native to the tropical rainforests of South America. Some of the soils there contain large amounts of radium.

Anyone thinking about the consequences of the Chornobyl reactor accident (Russian: Chernobyl) and other types of nuts can rest assured. Radioactive caesium plays the main role in connection with the accident. And this is only measured in small quantities in nuts and is also subject to a limit value.

Radium is deposited in teeth and bones

It is safe for adults to eat Brazil nuts in moderation. The radiation dose they receive is low. "Children, adolescents, expectant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid Brazil nuts as a precaution", recommends BfS President Inge Paulini. The reason: in children, the same amount of Brazil nuts can lead to a significantly higher radiation dose than in an adult.

This is not only due to the fact that the human body and its metabolism change with age. Like calcium, radium is deposited in teeth and bones - and these are still being formed in children. Unborn children and infants can absorb the radioactive substance via the placenta and breast milk.

Protect children from unnecessary radiation

"If children only eat Brazil nuts occasionally, the doses of radiation they receive are comparatively small. That's why the advice to be careful may sound exaggerated. But children need special protection, even from unnecessary radiation," emphasizes Paulini. "Children are more sensitive to radiation than adults. Unlike adults, they are often unable to make their own judgment about the potential risk and decide for themselves." As a precaution, Paulini also advises adults against excessive consumption of Brazil nuts.

Radiation dose through diet

Everyone in Germany takes in naturally occurring radioactive substances with their food. With average eating habits, this results in a comparatively low annual radiation dose of around 300 microsieverts. Even the regular consumption of small amounts of Brazil nuts can significantly increase this value.

An adult who eats an average of two Brazil nuts a day for a year, for example, receives an additional radiation dose of around 160 microsieverts. If a child were to eat the same amount of Brazil nuts in the second year of life, the additional radiation dose would be around 1,000 microsieverts - i.e. around six times as high - due to the significantly different body structure and metabolism, among other things.

If all naturally occurring radiation sources are taken into account, the population in Germany is exposed to an average radiation dose of 2,100 microsieverts per year. Depending on local conditions and lifestyle, individual values are between 1,000 and 10,000 microsieverts per year.

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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