Did You Know: Bananas Are Radioactive?

Bananas contain an abundance of potassium(K), which is a naturally occurring element. A tiny fraction of potassium atoms spontaneously decay, thus releasing beta and gamma rays. This form of potassium is an isotope known as potassium-40, or simply K-40.

This form of radiation is known as ionizing radiation, which simply means the atoms release electrons and is harmful to living tissue.

Before you get alarmed and throw away those bananas you bought, there are a few facts you should know about K-40. First of all, the half-life (the amount of time it takes the radioactivity of a particular isotope to drop to half its original value) of K-40 is so long it’s not very radioactive. With a half-life of 1.3 billion years, only a few thousand atoms decay each second, meaning there is not much ionizing energy released. To put this in perspective, one would have to eat one thousand bananas to equal the amount of radiation absorbed during a chest X-ray. Furthermore, our bodies contain approximately 120 grams of potassium, and the amount of potassium is kept at a constant level, so any excess is excreted through urine, resulting in no cumulative dose.

Here are some fun facts about bananas:

Botanically speaking, a banana is a berry. To be classified as a berry, the fruit must contain two or more seeds and develop from one flower that has one ovary. Believe it or not, tomatoes, peppers, cranberries, eggplants, kiwis, watermelon, cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, and pumpkins are technically berries.

Banana plants are called banana trees but are, in fact, herbs related to ginger.

The term “Banana Republic’‘ was coined to describe countries run by corrupt despots, whose sole export was bananas and were controlled by foreign businesses.

You can rub a banana peel on a scratched DVD or CD and fill the scratches without damaging the plastic finish. You can also rub a banana peel on a splinter and it will help loosen it.

Bananas in the Garden of Eden? In the 18th century, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus postulated that bananas grow at just the right height for someone to easily grab them, thus causing some to speculate the forbidden fruit may have been a banana.

Bananas are sterile. The banana’s three chromosomes can’t be equally divided to create reproduction cells, so they can not produce viable seeds. Therefore, Bananas are grown by cutting a piece from another plant.

Bananas were most likely grown as a source of fiber to make into cloth, rather than as a food source.

The Banana Split was invented in 1904, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, by pharmacist David Strickler. He cleverly sliced a banana in two, added scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, strawberry, then added three types of flavored toppings, and topped it off with whipped cream.