Seattle's Puget Sound Mussels Test Positive For Opiods

Mussels

"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. He explained that the areas where they took mussels contaminated with oxycodone are highly urbanized.

The finding suggests "a lot of people" are taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound, researchers say.

"Things like, they can affect the growth of organisms, their hormone systems, their ability to reproduce", she explained.

Although, for now, at least, there is little chance that an oxycodone-infused mussel will end up on your plate, this new discovery underscores the increasing severity of the opioid epidemic nationwide and its potential effects on the environment.

Lanksbury said the opioids likely entered the water through human waste, either through urine after ingesting the drugs, or in higher concentrations when people flush pills down the toilet.

Mussels do not metabolise opioids, but some fish can become addicted.

"You wouldn't want to collect (and eat) mussels from these urban bays", according to PSI's Andy James, who assisted with the study.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2016 projected that almost 300 lbs of the pharmaceuticals, industrial compounds and personal care products ended up in Puget Sound every day, some at the high concentrations to harmfully impact the fish.

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Scientists have not studied whether mussels are harmed by oxycodone. The contaminants in this case are thought to be passed into Puget Sound through discharge from wastewater treatment plants.

The analysis is part of the state's biennial Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring Program, in which uncontaminated mussels are transplanted into various locations to study pollution levels.

"We sent 18 samples (of mussels) to a laboratory up in Canada and asked for a suite of pharmaceutical and personal care products", Lanksbury said.

Mussels are channel feeders, which imply they channel water for supplements to support themselves.

According to the WDFW, people who eat mussels from a restaurant or grocery store should not be anxious about getting high on opioids. Two of the areas were close to the historic naval shipyard district, and the other one was in Elliot Bay near Harbour Island, Seattle.

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.

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

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