Health Care

Mussels in salt water test positive for opioids

Mussels in salt water test positive for opioids

According to CBS News, scientists from the Washington Department of Fishing and Wildlife are claiming that local varieties of mussels now contain traces of opioids as the drug's "flow downstream" is starting to impact aquatic life.

The department conducted the tests in conjunction with the Puget Sound Institute.

The levels of opioids in the waters were thousands of times smaller than a human dose, but data shows that the U.S. opioid epidemic has filtered down to other species in America's ecosystems.

The mussels tested came from highly urbanized areas, far from commercial shellfish beds where mussels are raised for food, according to the PSI.

"It's telling me there's a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area", said WDFW biologist Jennifer Lanksbury.

Surfactants, in particular, are "known to have estrogenic effect on organisms, so they affect the hormone system of some animals in an estrogenic way, such as feminizing male fish and making female fish reproductive before they're ready", Lanksbury explained.

When people take drugs like opioids, that's not the end of the story.

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Mussels do not metabolise opioids, but some fish can become addicted. In Puget Sound, off the western coast of Washington state, scientists have discovered marine life contaminated with oxycodone.

Mussels are an excellent indicator of the environment since they concentrate contaminants into their tissues.

The researchers said the mussels they study typically test positive for other pharmaceutical drugs, as well as illegal drugs such as cocaine, but they hadn't tested positive for opioids until now.

"We found oxycodone in only three of the 18 sets of mussels we analyzed".

"A lot of the pharmaceuticals are probably coming out of our wastewater treatment plants", Lanksbury says in CNN.

Specifically, the locations that tested positive were Bremerton's shipyard and Elliot Bay. However, the public has nothing to worry because mussels in restaurant or stores come from clean locations, and are healthy to eat. "They receive the water that comes from our toilets and our houses and our hospitals, and so these drugs, we're taking them, and then we're excreting them in our urine so it gets to the wastewater treatment plant in that way". In the process, "they pick up all sorts of contaminants, so at any given time their body tissues record data about water quality over the previous two to four months", the institute explains.

Of 18 areas researchers utilized, three indicated hints of oxycodone.