Even the sealife in the U.S. is testing positive for opioids now

Even the sealife in the U.S. is testing positive for opioids now

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.

"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 affiliate KIRO-7 in Seattle.

The levels of opioids in the waters were thousands of times smaller than a human dose, but data shows that the U.S. opioid epidemic has filtered down to other species in America's ecosystems.

It's possible, however, that the opioids could affect fish, which are known to respond to the drugs, James added. The mussels were contaminated because sewage from opioid consumers ended up in the sound after being treated at wastewater plants, scientists explained. "Some people, unfortunately, flush their drugs down the toilet, and that's a huge source of these pharmaceuticals".

While mussels don't actually metabolize drugs like oxycodone, fish do.

State scientists dispersed clean mussels around the Puget Sound and extricated them months after the fact to try things out.

The Department uses mussels to get a reading on pollution in waterways because they're "filter feeders", meaning they absorb contaminants from their surroundings into their tissues.

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

Puget Sound waters contain many chemical compounds, like pharmaceuticals or even drugs like cocaine.

"Because we're finding them in mussels, that means these chemicals are present in the water, and that means they're likely affecting fish and other invertebrates in the water", Lanksbury said.

While monitoring the pollution levels of Seattle's Puget Sound, researchers discovered oxycodone in the tissues of native bay mussels, according to a report from the Puget Sound Institute earlier in May.

In addition to oxycodone, scientists discovered that some of the mussels tested for high levels of Melphalan, a chemotherapy drug that doubles as a potential carcinogen. Andy James of PSI says the level is at a point that researchers may want to examine the biological impact. Mussels sold to hungry consumers are harvested from clean locations and are not obtained from Puget Sound.

According to the WDFW, people who eat mussels from a restaurant or grocery store should not be anxious about getting high on opioids.

"All of our species indicate where contamination is coming into the Puget Sound", she explained.

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