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As more and more American communities grapple with opioid addiction, the human toll of the epidemic has grown in both scope and severity. And now, scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have found evidence that drug’s impact has literally flowed downstream to affect marine life, as well.
Specifically, they used mussels as a barometer of pollution in the waters off Seattle, and discovered that oxycodone is now present enough in the marine environment there for shellfish to test positive.
The article goes on to state the following:
Since mussels are “filter feeders,” they absorb contaminants from their environment into their tissues in a concentrated way. Scientists used cages to transplant clean mussels from an aquaculture source on Whidbey Island to 18 urbanized locations around Puget Sound. Several months later, they pulled those previously uncontaminated mussels back out of the urban waters and, together with the Puget Sound Institute, tested them again.
In three of the 18 locations, the mussels then tested positive for trace amounts of oxycodone.
According to the report, humans who ingest opioids, like oxycodone, excreting the drugs into the toilet and the drugs eventually end up in wastewater. Wastewater management systems don’t entirely filter the chemicals in the drugs, therefore opioids, antidepressants, and other drugs end up in the ocean.
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