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Further complications arise when the carbon in a sample has not taken a straightforward route from the atmosphere to the organism and thence to the measured sample.
This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.
Radiocarbon enters the biosphere through natural processes like eating and breathing.
Plants and animals absorb both C-12 and C-14 in the course of their natural lifetimes simply by carrying out these basic functions.
In fact, research has been conducted which suggests that nuclear tests may have doubled the concentration of C-14 in this time, compared to natural production by cosmic rays. If you’d like more info on Carbon Dating, check out NASA’s Virtual Dating: Isochron and Radiocarbon – Geology Labs On-line, and here’s a link to USGS Radiometric Dating Page.
Nevertheless, it remains the most accurate means of dating the scientific community has discovered so far. We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about How Carbon Dating Works.