According to research published last week in Nature Sustainability, scientists from Canada and the United States are using honey from local beekeepers to test for the presence of heavy metal contamination. The procedure uses isotope analysis to search for low levels of lead, zinc, copper and other elements. Researchers say honey collected from local hives provides good evidence of nearby conditions because honeybees typically utilize pollen and nectar within a range of 1 to 2 miles. According to an Oregon State University press release, the study is thought to be the first of its kind in North America by using honey as a biomonitor.
“This is a great example of how citizen science can play a role in helping researchers address issues around the world,” said Alyssa Shield, an Oregon State geochemist and co-author on the study. “Urban beekeeping is on the rise, and honey is an untapped resource that can be used as a biomonitor.”