Nuke Tests Left Mark on Trees, People

Scientists can date humans and trees by the extra carbon in their systems
By Rebecca Smith Hurd,  Newser User
Posted Nov 16, 2008 4:04 PM CST
Characteristic mushroom shaped cloud begins formation after the first H-Bomb explosion at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific, Nov. 6, 1952.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Scientists can now carbon-date baby boomers by detecting atomic bomb residue in their DNA, NPR reports. Turns out that carbon-14 released during above-ground nuclear tests in the 1950s and '60s hung around, then was absorbed into living tissue, experts say. Evidence, in the form of extra carbon neutrons, has been found in humans and trees that were alive between 1954 and 1963.

“I know that all the wood that grew after [the carbon spike] that had to be after 1954,” says one botanist, who says the same is true of all trees worldwide. Another scientist says the same phenomenon occurs in human brain cells. A high carbon-14 count means that you—and your favorite shade tree—were alive during the age of atomic testing.