May 22, 2019 | Updated: 08:18 AM EDT

Monitoring air pollution through honey

Mar 12, 2019 10:23 AM EDT

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Beehives
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The University of British Columbia and the nonprofit Hives for Humanity conducted a study that showed how honey from urban beehives is a biomonitor on the level of pollution a city has. 

Findings of the research were published in Nature Sustainability. The authors collected and analyzed honey from beehives in six Metro Vancouver locations. They tested the concentration levels of copper, lead, zinc, and other elements. The researchers found out that Vancouver is clean because of the Canadian honey's chemical composition. The study also concluded that the proximity of a hive to the downtown metro would mean a greater possibility of increased concentrations of lead. 

Honey serves as a mirror to the condition of the environment. This is brought about by the bees that find food near their hive. Plants serve as storage for pollutants. Pollens act as a reservoir for substances that pollute water, and, and soil. Monitoring of air pollution caused by jet engines in Germany is done by constant monitoring of honey near the Frankfurt Airport. 

Places with shipping ports, higher urban density, and heavy traffic have a higher concentration of elements related to pollution. The higher level of manganese is found in honey in hives at the edge of Vancouver. This shows that the community has a high incidence of pesticide use. 

The researchers also found out that there is a unique fingerprint of lead in honey except for those trees located in Stanley Park. The lead in the honey and the lead in the trees were subjected to isotope analysis that revealed that shipping ports are the source of the pollutant. 

"We found they both had fingerprints similar to aerosols, ores, and coals from large Asian cities," senior author Dominique Weis, Ph.D.explained Monday. "Given that more than 70 percent of cargo ships entering the Port of Vancouver originate from Asian ports, it's possible they are one source contributing to elevated lead levels in downtown Vancouver."

The team assured Vancouver residents not to be anxious about the lead content in their honey. An adult needs to consume more than two cups of honey on a daily basis to exceed tolerable levels of lead. However, this does not imply that that monitoring of honey should be stopped. 

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