Public Health Fakes: radioactive clouds from Ukraine are approaching Europe. Issue #31

Public Health Fakes: radioactive clouds from Ukraine are approaching Europe. Issue #31

Photo: ua.depositphotos.com / HayDmitriy
25 May 2023
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In this issue, we refuted the disinformation that radioactive clouds are approaching Europe due to “explosions at depleted uranium warehouses in Ukraine”. Also, the Russian media once again attempted to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine  by spreading a fake story about 40 Ukrainian soldiers being poisoned by food provided by volunteers.

With the support of the USAID Health Reform Support project, VoxCheck analyzes and refutes public health narratives spread in the information space of Ukraine, Belarus, and russia on a weekly basis.

Disinformation: In Poland, the level of radiation increased after the explosions in Ukraine

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev claimed that allegedly after the explosion of ammunition containing depleted uranium in the Khmelnytskyi region, radioactive clouds are approaching Europe. He also stated that the radiation level has increased in Poland. Russian media and Telegram channels also started spreading information that the radiation level in Lublin had risen in May, citing research data from the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Poland.

What’s the reality?

In the previous issue, we debunked the fake about a “radiation threat” in the Khmelnytskyi and Ternopil regions. In reality, there was no abnormal increase in radiation in these regions, and the only “evidence of detonation of ammunition with depleted uranium” was Russian propagandist claims.

The Ministry of Health of Ukraine also did not report any radiation threat in the country. According to the Main Center for Special Monitoring of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, the radiation levels at monitoring points, including those in western regions of Ukraine, are within normal limits.

The National Atomic Energy Agency of Poland explained that the radiation situation in the country remains within normal limits, and temporary elevated values of natural background radiation occur regularly, particularly during precipitation. The agency added that the increase occurred not only in Poland but also in other European countries, yet the changing indicators do not pose a threat to the health and lives of people.

As noted by researchers from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, the increase in radiation intensity observed on May 15, 2023, is a natural phenomenon caused by precipitation. The chemical element Bismuth (Isotope Bi-214), whose elevated levels were detected in Poland, is present in the air in the form of aerosols and dust. Its concentration depends on various factors, such as the presence of local sources, wind direction, and the amount of precipitation. After rain, the particles of this isotope settle on the surface of the measuring instrument, which determines the radiation level. However, over time, as the contamination is cleaned up, the radiation level decreases.

According to the Radiation Safety Center of Poland, which conducts round-the-clock monitoring of radiation levels, the amount of Bismuth in the air slightly increased on May 15; however, this reading did not exceed the permissible norm. On May 23, the radiation level also remained within normal limits.

Furthermore, the current radiation level in Poland can be checked on the website of the European Union’s environmental radiation monitoring system. However, during this period, there were no reports of radiation levels exceeding the permissible norms in Poland or other European countries.

Disinformation: 40 military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces died from food poisoning

In May 2023, Russian media and Telegram channels claimed that Ukrainian volunteers had provided pelmeni (dumplings) to the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, after which 40 military personnel from the brigade died of food poisoning. The Russians allegedly obtained information about the poisoning from the phone of a deceased Ukrainian soldier. Videos with voice messages narrating the story of the poisoning can be found on Telegram channels.

Screenshot of publication

What’s the reality?

We decided to ask representatives of the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade named after Prince Konstantin Ostrozkyi whether there were cases of food poisoning from dumplings among the military personnel. The brigade responded that Russian media had been spreading disinformation about dumpling poisoning among the Ukrainian Armed Forces half a year and three months ago, but there were no actual cases of poisoning.

The response of the 30th separate mechanized brigade 

In addition, journalist Anna Kaliuzhna from Bihus.Info, who covers stories from the frontlines, wrote on her Facebook page on January 26, 2023, about the story of military personnel being poisoned. According to her, some commanders did send messages to their subordinates about dumpling poisoning in one of the brigades. However, the brigade allegedly affected by the dumpling poisoning did not confirm such incidents.

It is worth noting that a similar story was circulated in 2014. At that time, the Russian mass media wrote that dumplings were prepared for Ukrainian military personnel in the canteen in the Luhansk region, as a result of which they were poisoned. But, apart from the testimony of anonymous doctors and the “victim”, there is no confirmation of these incidents.

Despite the disinformation about the poisoning of Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel, food poisoning remains a serious health threat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly one in ten people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year.

Source: Ministry of Health of Ukraine, WHO

In most cases, microorganisms that can cause various illnesses such as botulism, salmonellosis, dysentery, or Escherichia infection enter the human body through spoiled or low-quality food products. To prevent the occurrence of such diseases, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine recommends thorough handwashing, washing of products and utensils, avoiding drinking water from unverified sources, refraining from consuming dubious quality products, and avoiding purchasing food from unauthorized places. In the event of food poisoning, it is recommended not to self-medicate but to seek medical assistance from a doctor.

This information piece was produced with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided on behalf of the people of the United States of America. This article’s content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, is the sole responsibility of Deloitte Consulting under contract #72012118C00001.

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