Residents of Broken Hill in far west NSW who eat local honey are more likely to consume lead-contaminated honey, new research shows.
The Macquarie University research traced contaminating metals in bees, their honey and wax in Sydney and Broken Hill in far west NSW and found the bees were contaminated by ongoing mining emissions and petrol sources.
The honey produced by Broken Hill bees contained more than 10 times the amount of lead that was found in the honey made by Sydney bees, the study found.
“The large difference in honey lead concentration demonstrates that local active sources, such as the ongoing lead mining in Broken Hill, can have a substantial impact on the level of metals measured in local food products and ecological systems,” Macquarie University Professor Mark Taylor said in a statement on Monday.
“There are very limited contemporary lead emissions in Sydney, which means that air lead levels are approximately 30 times lower than those in Broken Hill, which is why bee contamination was markedly lower.”
The study found bees located in Sydney’s inner west fared worse than those in other areas such as Coogee and Randwick, with bees in the CBD, Surry Hills, Mascot and Newtown possessing higher levels of lead.
Galston in Sydney’s Hills District and Gordon in Sydney’s upper north shore were home to bees with the lowest levels of lead.
Prof Taylor said this was likely because those areas were closer to national parks where there was less contamination from traffic pollution and human activity.
But, he said the research also discovered bees were filtering the lead and limiting its passage into honey and therefore to humans.
“The fact that their honey contains much less lead than their bodies tells us that the bees are filtering this contaminant,” he said.