Trace amounts of opioids found in shellfish off Seattle coast

Henrietta Strickland
May 26, 2018

As more and more American communities grapple with opioid addiction, the human toll of the epidemic has grown in both scope and severity.

So, every two years, scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) transplant uncontaminated mussels, raised in pristine waters, to various locations in Puget Sound, according to the statement. According to the Puget Sound Institute, the traces of detected opioids were significantly smaller than a typical human dose of the drug and none of the tested mussels are located near commercial shellfish beds.

Scientists took mussels from an aquaculture source that were drug free, and placed them in 18 residential areas around Puget Sound for several months, before teaming up with Puget Sound Institute to re-test the marine life to see if any had been contaminated with opioids, CBS News reported. Scientists then collect the mussels, grind them up, and analyze contaminants.

Mussels are filter feeders; to eat, the shellfish constantly sift the water around them in their hunt for bacteria or microscopic algae.

When humans ingest opioids like oxycodone, they ultimately end up excreting traces of the drugs into the toilet.

Mussels off the coast of Seattle have tested positive for opioids.

The water gets filtered, but King County Wastewater Management said although their system can catch a lot of contaminants, it can't specifically filter out drugs.

As the U.S. 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. "It's telling me there's a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area".

While mussels likely don't metabolize drugs like oxycodone, and thus wouldn't necessarily be physically harmed by the presence of it in their tissues, studies show that fish are not so lucky. Scientists believe that Puget Sound salmon and other fish bay could demonstrate the same behavior.

Trace amounts of the opioid were detected in mussels near Bremerton's shipyard and Elliot Bay.

The contamination is likely coming through wastewater treatment plants, she said, adding that the chemicals may be having an impact on fish and shellfish in those areas.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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