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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Establishing efficacy of honey as a biomonitor for metal distribution and lead source apportionment in urban environments Smith, Katy Elizabeth


Urban geochemistry is an emerging field in which key scientific and societal challenges, including rapid urbanization and population growth, compel investigation of readily accessible biomonitors to determine the source, transport, and fate of metal pollutants in cities. When properly managed, Apis mellifera (the Western honey bee) can thrive in urban environments, making bees, and their products (e.g., honey, bee pollen), useful biomonitoring matrices. Lead (Pb) isotopic compositions, together with a suite of twenty-two metal concentrations, measured in honey collected systematically throughout Metro Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) demonstrate that honey can elucidate small‐scale (km-scale) metal distribution within a city, reflecting nearby land use and anthropogenic activities. This work focuses on the neurotoxic metal Pb since its legacy and distribution in cities is a public health concern and its isotopes are useful for pollution source apportionment. This research refines the field sampling methods for honey, provides extensive hive and environmental context for honey by presenting metal concentrations and Pb isotopic compositions measured in bees, bee pollen, propolis, PM10, and topsoil (collocated with Metro Vancouver hives), and explores the spatiotemporal implications of the data. The methods established in Metro Vancouver were applied to an acute Pb pollution event in Paris, France, where Pb fallout from the 2019 fire at Notre-Dame cathedral was measurable in honey collected downwind of the fire. Colleagues and community scientists around the world helped collect honey from hives in diverse settings (e.g., New York City and the Hawaiian Islands) and procured commercially available honey, effectively creating a preliminary, global database for Pb isotopic compositions in honey. Honey falls predictably along the global Pb isotope array (as defined by legacy Pb pollution, modern aerosols, and other consumer products) depending on its origin and provides global context for future city-scale studies utilizing honey as a biomonitor. This work offers a comprehensive assessment of the efficacy of honey as a biomonitor using metal concentrations in conjunction with Pb isotopic compositions. The results demonstrate that honey and honey bees may indeed become essential biomonitoring tools in the near future as the dynamics and environmental monitoring needs of urban environments shift.

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