Your Avocado Is Radioactive — But Seriously, Don't Panic

Photographed by Andy Price.
Our love for — nay, our unending allegiance to — avocados runs deep. But headlines this week about a new study published in Health Physics might be calling that love into question. Avocados were found to contain low levels of radiation — but before you panic, here's what that really means for you and your go-to brunch order.

For the study, researchers measured how much radiation comes off common household items, such as smoke detectors and produce. They found that avocados and smoke detectors both emit 0.16 units (micrograys per hour) of radiation, while bananas give off 0.17 units.

Smoke detectors are made with americium, a radioactive metal, so it only makes sense that they're slightly radioactive themselves. But why would fruits be radioactive? We actually have good ol' potassium to thank for that. Both avocados and bananas are pretty high in potassium, which contains radioactive isotopes, but the benefits of potassium far outweigh any risks it might pose.

The bottom line is, radiation is basically everywhere — just, for the most part, in very small amounts. In fact, the study was conducted in the first place to "place radiation readings in context," coauthor Robert Hayes explained in a release. "If people understand what trace levels of radiation mean, that understanding may help prevent panic," he added.

Let's do just that: not panic, enjoy the health benefits of avocados, and remember that, for people who work with radioactive substances regularly, the regulatory (safe) level of radiation is 50,000 units per year. So we can handle the 0.16 units from an avocado, especially if we get some guac out of it.


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