Is it safe to tap a city birch for sap?

The arrival of spring has Latvians heading to the woodside to tap trees for fresh birch juice in a time-honored local tradition. But is it safe to tap into the power of nature within a polluted urban environment as well?

In a story appearing on LSM Wednesday, Latvian Television's "4th Studio" sought for an answer to the question.

People in Rīga were unanimous in saying that tapping city birches for tap is not recommended because of the bad air quality.

However Latvian University professor Arturs Vīksna said that actually sap from birches within the city is as clean as drinking and mineral water.

"Generally speaking, every living organism, especially in nature, purifies itself. So the pollution remains in the root system as all nutrients are absorbed through roots. There are special tubers where these toxic substances remain," he said.   

The BIOR Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment a few years ago carried out research on birch sap from trees growing in polluted areas, and the results were surprising.

"According to people from BIOR, it's somewhere between drinking water and mineral water," said Vīksna.

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