Honey provides a localized snapshot of the environment by monitoring levels of pollution and identifying the exact source of toxins, such as lead, reveals study.

University of British Columbia's Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR) published their study in journal Nature Sustainability. The team analyzed local beehives in six Metro Vancouver districts and found tiny levels of lead, zinc, copper, and other toxins. The researchers conducted further tests, similar to fingerprinting, to identify the source of lead.

The Bright Side

"The good news is that the chemical composition of honey in Vancouver reflects its environment and is extremely clean," said Kate E. Smith, lead author and Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

According to researchers, honey found in Metro Vancouver was well below the global average for heavy metals. They further explained that a normal adult would have to consume more than 600 grams of honey every day to surpass tolerable levels.

The Source Of The Problem

Study findings discovered that the concentration of toxic elements increased as they reached closer to areas with high urban density with heavy traffic and shipping ports. As per their fingerprinting analysis, the scientists revealed that the lead mainly came from manmade sources.

The scientists also compared the lead fingerprints with locally sourced environmental samples and found that it did not match with naturally occurring lead. However, the trees in Stanley Park and honey from the same area showed remarkable similarity in the composition of lead found in Asian cities, said Dominique Weis, senior author of the study.

Since 70 percent of the cargo ships that enter Vancouver Port come from Asia, it is highly likely that they are responsible for increasing the levels of lead in downtown Vancouver, explained Weis.

The team is hopeful to use this study will pave the way for honey to act an ecological monitor in other cities. They will further continue to study how honey analysis might be able to supplement conventional air and soil monitoring techniques.

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