Honey as a biomarker for pollution

• Honey from urban areas can be used as biomarker to identify polluted localities, according to a study conducted by Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical research (PCIGR).

Important highlights of the study

• The study was conducted in Vancouver, Canada, and has been published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

• The honey samples, analysed for the study, were collected from six geographical areas within Vancouver, including urban, industrial, residential and agricultural.

• From these samples, the scientists tested for three major elements Lead, Zinc, Copper.

• The results showed that areas with heavy vehicle movement and industrial activity had increased concentration of lead in honey.

• On the other hand, samples from agricultural land indicated high levels of manganese, which researchers suspect could be because of pesticide use.

• The trace elements levels in honey is well below the worldwide average for heavy metals, says the study.

• This means that an adult would have to consume more than 600 grams, or two cups, of honey every day to exceed tolerable levels.

Key findings

• Since the honey bee collects nectar from within a range of three to four kilometers, it is easy to point the source for its contamination.

• The researchers plan further honey analysis to see if it can complement traditional air and soil monitoring techniques; and test the efficiency of honey as an environment monitor in other cities as well.

• Another study of the aquatic plant called water hyacinth, or Eichhornia crassipes, found that these can be used as biomarkers.

• This plant is commonly found in tropical countries and is known for its ability to absorb nutrients and other elements from water.

• The stems and leaves, have been successfully used as indicators of heavy metal pollution in tropical countries.

• The uptake of heavy metals in this plant is stronger in the roots than in the floating shoots, states the study.


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: Biomarkers

Mains level: Utility of biomarkers in pollution assessment

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