Bananas Are Radioactive. Should you worry?

The amount of radiation bananas expose us to is undoubtedly safe, says science.

Photo by Vanessa Loring on

As I was browsing the internet this week, I stumbled upon an article that claimed bananas are radioactive. A “WTF” expression hovered over my face for a moment because I love bananas.

I scoured through the internet which left me dumbfounded initially. Then, I found the numbers which amazed me.

Yes, bananas are indeed radioactive. But that is not something human beings should be bothered about. Let’s take a thorough look at why that is the case.

When an atom of an element decays into subatomic particles (alpha, beta rays) and electromagnetic waves (gamma rays), that element is known to be radioactive.

As those rays pass through the human body, they tend to ionize the biomolecules of our cells and damage the nucleic acids. Consequences? Radiation sickness and cancer.

Banana is rich in naturally occurring Potassium (K-39). And 0.012% of that potassium is K-40, a radioactive isotope.

K-40 has a half-life of 1.3 billion years. Only a couple of thousands of atoms actually break down each second.

As one average-sized banana is consumed, around 450 mg of potassium is taken in. That exposes the consumer to 0.01 millirem of radiation. “Rem” is the unit that signifies the dose of radiation our body tissues absorb.

To put it in perspective, one chest X-ray exposes the human body to 10 millirems of radiation. And that amount of radiation increases human mortality by a millionth.

So, at least a thousand bananas can make human beings one in a million times more mortal.

With even extrapolated figures, it turns out that a “billion” bananas can kill a person. And all of them should be eaten in one sitting. Tough job, right?

In a nutshell, the radioactivity of bananas isn’t detrimental to our human body. And the K-40 isotope can’t accumulate in the human body either, thanks to our excretion mechanism in play.

So, eat bananas to optimize your blood pressure, improve digestion, and enhance immunity. Don’t throw it in the bin to keep the radiation out of reach.

Quick fact: Brazil nuts, potatoes, and avocadoes are radioactive too. Every food item contains traces of radioactive elements but they are mostly safe for human consumption.

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