Oats Show Promise in ‘Cleaning’ Strontium from Soil after Nuclear Accidents

There’s some promising news on nuclear clean-ups coming out of the University of Western Australia and it has to do with your morning breakfast cereal. Well, sort of.

It turns out that a variety of oat may be a newly discovered key to removing strontium from radioactive contaminated soil after a nuclear accident such as Fukushima.

The research, conducted by scientists from UWA, China and Switzerland, was published in the recent issue of the International Journal of Phytoremediation.

According to Australia’s WAToday, “The ‘naked’ oat emerged as the strongest contender because of its ability to absorb high levels of strontium.”

Study co-author Professor Kadambot Siddique of the UWA's Institute of Agriculture told WAToday that "Food is the most likely pathway of strontium into humans, and high doses of strontium increases the risk of cancers and may induce skeletal abnormalities," he said.

"Plants might be used to help the clean up process where soils had been contaminated with heavy metals. They would absorb contaminants and store them in their shoots. The plants could then be safely disposed of or, potentially, even find a use in other products like biofuels."

Strontium is a common byproduct of nuclear accidents that can be difficult to clean up. While other grains were tested, including wheat and barley, oats showed the best ability to remove strontium from soil.
Could this finding hold potential for people contaminated by strontium? Meaning, could an increased intake of the oat variety also chelate out the toxin before it’s able to cause more severe health issues?
Well, the researchers didn’t look at that effect just yet, but it certainly seems promising.

Oats are a great source of healthy plant-based fiber and protein, as well as beta glucans, which are known for their cholesterol lowering effects.

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