WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Scientists discovered that the oxycodone in Puget Sound has contaminated shellfish tissue, having detected traces of opioids in the local waters’ mussels.
- Mussels are filter feeders which find nutrients by straining the water they are in.
- Because of this, their tissues absorb concentrated doses of water pollutants and usually serve as indicators of the health and contents of coastal waters.
The Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington Tacoma tested mussels from three of 18 locations near Seattle and Bremerton in Washington’s Puget Sound. The mussels, which tested positive for the opioid oxycodone, were contaminated by the sewage from opioid consumers ending up in the sound.
Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, explained, “What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound. It’s telling me there’s a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area.”
Mussels typically test positive for pharmaceutical drugs, and even illegal drugs like cocaine, but researchers said they hadn’t tested positive for opioids until now.
Lanksbury assured that the amount of oxycodone found in the mussels is much smaller than a therapeutic human dose, “So you’d have to eat 150 pounds of mussels in that contaminated area to get a minimal dose.”
While the trace amounts of oxycodone likely haven’t affected the mussels since they don’t appear to metabolize it, the drug could still affect fish. Apparently, zebrafish have learned to dose themselves with the opioids. Oxycodone could also affect juvenile chinook salmon, as well as other species in Puget Sound.
Aside from oxycodone, the mussels showed levels of antibiotics, heart drugs, antidepressants, and the chemotherapy drug melphalan, which is a potential carcinogen. Andy James of the Puget Sound Institute, who assisted in the study, warned that the drug was found at “levels where we might want to look at biological impacts.”
Since the mussels reportedly came from urban areas and not near any commercial shellfish beds harvested for food, James advised not “to collect [or eat] mussels from these urban bays.”
As part of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, scientists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife place uncontaminated mussels in several Puget Sound locations every two years. They are then tested for contaminants about three months later.
Source: Huffington Post