heavy metals & mushrooms

Creed Taylor ctaylor at vt.edu
Thu Sep 30 11:16:05 EST 1999

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.


C r e e d   T a y l o r
Art Director
Electronic Communications
University Relations
102 Media Virginia Tech
Blacksburg VA
USA 24061
ctaylor at vt.edu

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