Mussels in salt water test positive for opioids

Mussels in salt water test positive for opioids

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife brought in clean mussels from Whigby Island and put them in the water at Elliott Bay by Harbor Island to test the water for pollution. And it's not just opioids that end up in water, drugs like antidepressants and chemotherapy are detected in the mussels, too.

"What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound", Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO.

As the United States continues to grapple with a widespread opioid epidemic, alarming research from Seattle indicates that the local population is consuming so much oxycodone that it's seeping into the local water supply.

Mussels from three of 18 locations near Seattle and Bremerton in Washington's Puget Sound tested positive for the opioid oxycodone, according to the Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington Tacoma. This is the first time that opioids have been detected in Puget Sound mussels, the PSI statement said.

The level of oxycodone found in a single mussel was 100 to 500 times smaller than a therapeutic human dose, Lanksbury said.

Mussels in Puget Sound have tested positive for opioids and antibiotics
Mussels in Puget Sound have tested positive for opioids and antibiotics

The reason mussels are the preferred test subject to track toxins in marine life is because they are filter feeders, eating microscopic plants and animals that they strain out of seawater.

If you take legal or illegal drugs, or even flush them down the toilet unused, there's a good chance they'll wind up in Puget Sound.

"Hopefully our data shows what's out there and can get the process started for cleaning up our waters", Lanksbury said.

People have nothing to worry about when it comes to eating mussels from a restaurant or shop because they come from clean locations., but it's another sign of what's ending up in the water and harming marine life. And none of the mussels tested are near any commercial shellfish beds.

Andy James, who assisted with the study, said it's unlikely mussels can metabolize the drugs, but researchers are concerned about the potential for the impact of the drug on fish, which are know to respond to opioids. A previous study showed that zebrafish self-administer the commonly prescribed painkiller hydrocodone, and seek out the drug in unsafe situations, once they are hooked.


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