heavy metals & mushrooms

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Tue Oct 5 10:53:08 EST 1999

In article <v04003a04b4180d43d858@[]>,
  Creed Taylor <ctaylor at vt.edu> wrote:
> allen lutins writes:
> > National Public Radio this morning had a story on elevated lead and
> > arsenic levels in the soil of a North Carolina residential
> > neighborhood.  The source of these contaminants was the prior
> > existence of an apple orchard on the site, to which lead arsenate had
> > been heavily applied for about 100 years.  The reporter mentioned that
> > such heavy applications of lead arsenate used to be common in such
> > orchards.
> > I am wondering if heavy metals such as lead and arsenic accumulate in
> > the fruiting bodies of mushrooms?  I heard warnings years ago to avoid
> > mushrooms growing in old cemeteries for precisely this reason (heavy
> > metals and other toxic substances were used in embalming fluids for
> > centuries).  This is of particular concern to us mycophagists, because
> > here in the northeast morels are commonly sought in old apple
> > orchards.
> Allen, et al,
> As far as a reply "based on knowledge, rather than speculation", well,
> sorry. (Although I do think there are quite a few on this list who might
> provide this).
> Anyway, I heard the same report, wondered the same question and have heard
> similar caveats involving graveyards and old orchards (some of my best fall
> fungal finds come from old orchards--delicious with grouse from same, by
> the way). It would stand to reason that an organism with as potentially as
> large a nutrient-gathering absorption modus as mycelia would indeed
> encounter exponentially larger amounts of trace "nutrients", and thus the
> fruiting bodies of same would exhibit this.
> I've read that commonly-collected edible fungi were found to contain lethal
> quantities of [strontium 90?] in and around Hiroshima in the seasons
> following the US attack on Japan. And that fungi as far away as Sweden
> contained dangerous quantities of several radioactive compounds following
> the meltdown of Chernobl a few years ago.
> The fact that certain fungi growing around abandoned manganese mines not
> too far from where I now sit are a certain color of blue has intrigued me
> over the last few years for the same reason.
> I'd love to hear some of the views of scientists on this list. And sorry
> about the speculative nature of this reply--just couldn't help it.
> Fascinating question.
> Cheers,
> C r e e d   T a y l o r

Documentation of heavy metal poisonings is available in Mushrooms:
Poisons and Panaceas, by Denis Benjamin, c. 1995 by W.H. Freeman and Co.

The opening of Benjamin's discussion of the topic reads: "Many species
of the higher fungi -- from a large number of different genera,
including many of the gbest-known edible varieties -- have been shown to
concentrate or accumulate trace elements, including some of the toxic

Metals accumulated by mushrooms include mercury, cadmium, strontium,
lead, cesium-134 and cesium-137, arsenic, vanadium, selenium, manganese,
bromine, nickel, silver and gold. See the book for citations.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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