Scientists use honey and wild salmon to trace industrial metals in the environment

phys.org | 3/11/2019 | Staff
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Scientists have combined analyses from honey and salmon to show how lead from natural and industrial sources gets distributed throughout the environment. By analysing the relative presence of differing lead isotopes in honey and Pacific salmon, Vancouver-based scientists have been able to trace the sources of lead (and other metals) throughout the region. Scientists in France, Belgium and Italy are now looking to apply the same approach to measure pollutants in honey in major European cities. The research is being presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Barcelona.

Scientists have long known that honey bees pick up small amounts of metal elements (i.e., iron, zinc, and pollutants such as lead, and cadmium) when they alight on flowers and leaves. They carry these metals back to the hive where tiny amounts are incorporated into the honey. However, this is the first time researchers have been able to establish clearly the sources of the metals carried by the bees and their products, making them reliable biomarkers for environmental pollution.

Bees - Work - Thousands - Sites - Metal-containing

"We've found that we can let the bees do the hard the work for us: they go to thousands of sites where metal-containing dust particulates might land, then bring samples back to a central hive. From there we can take the honey to have it analysed and begin to identify the source of pollutants like lead," said Ph.D. candidate Kate Smith, part of a team working at the Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (University of British Columbia).

Once they have sampled the honey gathered by the bees, it is taken to a specialised geochemistry lab to be analysed using a high-resolution ICP-MS (Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry) instrument. This allows scientists to distinguish between different types (isotopes) of certain metal pollutants, like lead.

Smith - Lead - Isotopic - Composition - Honey

Smith continued, "Looking at the lead isotopic composition of the honey samples, we...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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