Opioids found in Puget Sound mussels

Seattle Mussels Test Positive for Opioids

Mussels from the Seattle and Bremerton harbor areas of the Puget Sound have traces of oxycodone in them, according to a new study by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "For instance, the juvenile Chinook salmon that are coming down the Duwamish River and into Elliott Bay for rearing are likely being exposed to these same chemicals".

Oxycodone was just one of several pharmaceutical and personal care product compounds found in the mussel tissue.

Puget Sound Institute scientist Andy James, who assisted with the study, said the areas where the oxycodone-tainted mussels were sampled are considered highly urbanised and are not near commercial shellfish beds.

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

Researchers behind Washington's Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring Program take uncontaminated mussels from Whidbey Island and place them in locations in Puget Sound biannually. Therefore, traces of opioids in the water suggest that a lot of people in the area are using the drugs, Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist at the WDFW, told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO 7.

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

When people take drugs like opioids, that's not the end of the story. This is the first time that opioids have been detected in Puget Sound mussels, the PSI statement said.

King County Wastewater Management told KIRO7 that although their system has the potential to detect and filter out most contaminants from the water, it can not catch everything.

Researchers said the mussels aren't harmed by the opioids because they don't metabolize them, but other fish can. But it does pose worrying questions about the health of local fish, who are more responsive to opioids.

He also said the oxycodone was found in amounts thousands of times lower than a therapeutic dose for humans.

Still, the discovery of opioid-positive shellfish in Puget Sound is a stark new milestone in the epidemic, showing that enough humans are hooked on these life-altering drugs for the trace chemicals they excrete to register in other species in our coastal waters. "You wouldn't want to collect (and eat) mussels from these urban bays", James said.

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