Honey study with beekeeping non-profit helps monitor Vancouver’s air quality

March 14, 2017
Photo credit: Hives for Humanity

The Pacific Center for Isotopic and Geochemical Research in EOAS is analyzing analysing honey from hives throughout the Lower Mainland, working in collaboration with Hives for Humanity, a non-profit organization in the Downtown Eastside that encourages community connections through beekeeping.

Researchers at PCIGR have been working on determining the concentrations of trace metals (e.g., lead, zinc, arsenic, copper and cadmium) in these challenging organic samples.  The lab results show that the urban honey produced by Hives for Humanity is entirely safe for human consumption.

The research team is also measuring the Pb isotopic composition of the honey to track the sources of these metals and potential pollutants.  Because bees forage in a three-kilometer radius, each hive represents a tiny sample of the local environment.  As such, the results help to monitor air quality and identify various sources of pollution in Metro Vancouver.  In the long-term, the study will also help establish a baseline of metal distribution across the Lower Mainland.

The honey study has just been showcased in a feature article and video by UBC Science, "A Sweet Chemical Analysis": https://science.ubc.ca/feature/honey 

The PCIGR facility houses 15 state-of-the-art instruments and sample preparation labs. Photo credit: D. Weis (PCIGR)