An alarming health disaster could be in the making as it's being widely reported this week that radioactive dust has been sweeping out of the Algerian desert and broader Sahara region across the Mediterranean. Further scientists say the ominous sounding 'radioactive Saharan dust' is causing a pollution spike even over parts of Southern Europe.
The Association for Control of Radioactivity in the West (Acro) reported that scientists have observed the phenomenon happening since February when the dust was found to be over parts of France. Samples confirmed what was found to be radioactive particles in the dust which had been kicked up by a major storm that recently swept Morocco, creating huge dust clouds that picked up the radioactive material that had been left over from past nuclear tests conducted by France on its then colonial possession of Algeria in the early 1960s.
While some scientists have claimed it's "not dangerous" - others have cautioned that residues of Caesium 137 - a radioactive isotope - may require cautions like staying indoors.
Citing the French NGO which monitors Europe for signs of nuclear contamination, Euronews reported this week that "Acro said it did tests on recent Saharan dust that it collected in the area of Jura, near the French border with Switzerland."
"Considering homogeneous deposits in a wide area, based on this analytical result, Acro estimates there was 80,000 bq per km2 of caesium-137," the organization said in a statement.
"This radioactive contamination, which comes from far away, 60 years after the nuclear explosions, reminds us of the perennial radioactive contamination in the Sahara, for which France is responsible," it added.
Follow the current Saharan dust intrusion over western Mediterranean and Europe. #raindust expected. Find more forecast products here: https://t.co/TbIaux5Dhk and our probability maps: https://t.co/2qDUU6GX9T@WMO @AEMET_Esp @BSC_CNS @UNCCD pic.twitter.com/eNucKnlSyK— Barcelona Dust (@Dust_Barcelona) March 1, 2021
While the health effects to exposure could be negligible in the short-term, we doubt too many Europeans are comfortable with such a threatening cloud of particles hovering over the continent.
And there looks to be possibly more deposits of the radioactive dust to come:
A fairly thick cloud is crossing the Mediterranean covering parts of Spain, France, the UK, and Germany among others, where the phenomenon of "mud rain" is now expected.
And as the storm affects the interior of Algeria again, it is likely that particles will carry back some caesium-137 from the site of the French nuclear test carried out on February 13, 1960.
That historic detonation was codenamed "Gerboise Bleue" - and many are now pointing out the deep irony of the nuke test having been 'carefully' and intentionally carried out on a colony far away from France, only for its radioactive long-lasting aftereffects to come back and haunt the French population.
There are also fears the radioactive dust could blow as far east as Turkey, with Turkish health officials now said to be preparing parts of the population to stay indoors in the coming days.