The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Opioids Found in Seattle Mussels Could Put Salmon, Other Fish at Risk
A surprising finding from the waters of Seattle's Puget Sound reveals that the opioid epidemic devastating human communities in the U.S. could be harming marine life as well.
Every two years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) transplants bay mussels raised in clean waters in Whidbey Island, WA to locations around Puget Sound in order to monitor pollution levels in the water. Since mussels are filter feeders, area scientists can get a good idea of what contaminants are present in the environment by examining which have built up in the mussels' tissue after two to three months of exposure.
This year, for the first time, one of those contaminants was oxycodone.
"It's telling me there's a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area. The contamination is likely coming from wastewater treatment plants," WDFW biologist Jennifer Lanksbury told local news outlet KIRO7 on May 23.
King County Wastewater Management told KIRO7 that they cannot filter out drugs specifically, which end up in urine that is then flushed down the toilet.
The oxycodone-contaminated mussels were found in mussels from three of the 18 areas tested, one in Seattle's Elliott Bay and two near the shipyard of Bremerton Island.
The findings were announced by the University of Washington's Puget Sound Institute (PSI), which helped with the study, conducted May 9 and widely reported last week.
PSI researcher Andy James explained in the University of Washington release that the mussels did not pose a risk to human consumers, since they were found in very urban areas far from where commercial mussels are gathered.
"You wouldn't want to collect (and eat) mussels from these urban bays," James said.
The release further explained that the dosages found in the mussels were thousands of times smaller than the amount that would impact a human and likely had no impact on the mussels either.
However, oxycodone levels in the Puget Sound area could pose a risk to fish. Studies have found that zebrafish will get high off of opioids, and scientists are worried that salmon and other Puget Sound fish could react similarly, according to the release.
The mussels also tested positively for other drugs like antidepressants and antibiotics.
"Those are definitely chemicals that are out there in the nearshore waters and they may be having an impact on the fish and shellfish that live there," Lanksbury told KIRO7.
Of particular concern, according to the University of Washington release, is the chemotherapy drug Melphalan, which interacts with DNA in ways that might cause cancer. It was found in mussels in levels relative by weight to the recommended human dose, "levels where we might want to look at biological impacts," James said.
Lanksbury told CNN the results were made possible by extra funding, which WDFW used to test for "contaminants of emerging concern" such as prescription drugs and personal care products. Previous studies had focused on pollutants like PCBs, pesticides and toxic metals.
Other important "contaminants of emerging concern" found in the mussels were four types of surfactants from detergents and cleaning products that can have an "estrogenic effect" on organisms like fish, "feminizing male fish and making female fish reproductive before they're ready," Lanksbury told CNN.
After these results, the WDFW will seek additional funding to continue monitoring prescription drug levels in the water, KIRO7 reported.
"People should be wary," Lanksbury told KIRO7. "Hopefully our data shows what's out there and can get the process started for cleaning up our waters."
- Drug waste clogs rivers around the world, scientists say ... ›
- Anxiety drugs are getting into the water we drink. This is how we ... ›
- Researchers Map High Levels of Drugs in the Hudson River ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.