Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Whiskey and Radioactivity:

Another Link between Alcohol and the Atom

I don't want to make too much of a habit of talking about connections between food and radioactivity, but the fact that there are a number of connections has always intrigued me.  I have previously written several pieces in this blog about connections between wine and the atom, including one on how wine can help limit the toxic effects of radiation therapy, and another on how gamma decay measurements can be used to help date wine.  I have also written about how irradiation could be used to kill listeria in unaged, unpasteurized cheeses.

I thought those posts about covered everything I would ever find on the relationship between food and beverages and radioactivity, but I just discovered yet another connection.  A recent news item reported that the Environmental Research Institute in Scotland is experimenting with biological materials that can absorb radioactive environmental contaminants, such as strontium, at the Dounreay site.  Materials being examined for their biosorption capabilities include the grains leftover from whiskey-making.

This finding was part of a research program to test the efficacy of a variety of materials, including eggshells, seaweed, and crab shells, for absorption of radioactive contaminants.  I will admit that the country probably has a lot of eggshells and seaweed, as well, but it really sounds so fitting to me for Scotland to use of a byproduct of a major industry to remediate a contaminated site in the country.

And now, just think--when you have a shot of whiskey, you may also be helping to clean up a contaminated site!  


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