Risk Assessment of Heavy Metals and Pesticides in Honey From Sicily (Italy)

  •  Clara Naccari    
  •  Andrea Macaluso    
  •  Giuseppe Giangrosso    
  •  Francesco Naccari    
  •  Vincenzo Ferrantelli    


Honey, obtained by the honeybee (Apis mellifera) from nectar plants, with different composition according to floral sources, regional and climatic conditions, is widely consumed for its nutritional value and various properties. It could be considered a bio-indicator of environmental pollution to assess the presence of metals, naturally present in soil, and pesticides, widely used in agricultural practices. Actually no specific legislation on honey’s metals and pesticides content exists. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of toxic metals (Pb and Cd) and insecticides (organochlorines, organophosphates, pyrethrins and pyrethroids) in carob, chestnut and eucalyptus honey samples from Sicily and carried out a risk assessment to dietary intake of these contaminants. The results obtained showed low residual levels of Pb (0.1709 ± 0.078 mg kg-1) and Cd (0.0153 ± 0.004 mg kg-1) while the concentrations of all pesticides analyzed were under the LOD (< 0.01 mg kg-1). To explain the source of metals contamination in honey, the analytical investigation was conducted also in carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.), chestnut (Castanea sativa) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules Labill.) powders, from which nectar honey is produced, confirming the presence of Pb and Cd concentrations with statistically significant differences (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01) in all three types. The risk assessment, evaluated through the Target Hazard Quotient (THQ) and confirmed also by EFSA Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI), showed that metals daily intake through Sicilian honey consumption is not likely to cause deleterious effect for consumers.

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