Thursday, July 22, 2010

Honeybees Deployed to Test Air Quality at German Airports

German officials are trying a novel approach to monitor air quality at airports — so-called “biomonitoring” by honeybees. In an effort to gauge air pollution levels from jet exhaust and ground transportation vehicles at Düsseldorf International Airport and several other airports nationwide, officials test honey from honeybees kept at the airports. In a recent test of honey collected from some 200,000 honeybees, officials confirmed that levels of some hydrocarbons and heavy metals were well below national safety standards. The honey, called Düsseldorf Natural, is then given away as gifts.

While some community groups in the U.S. and elsewhere have expressed concerns about air pollution levels at airports, industry groups insist that tighter oversight and improved energy efficiency in recent decades have significantly lowered air pollution from jet exhaust. Although officials in Germany say the use of bees to monitor air quality will not replace traditional methods, Martin Bunkowski, an environmental engineer for the Association of German Airports, told the New York Times that the practice sends “a very clear message for the public because it is easy to understand.”

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