According to CBS News, scientists from the Washington Department of Fishing and Wildlife are claiming that local varieties of mussels now contain traces of opioids as the drug's "flow downstream" is starting to impact aquatic life.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a study and discovered that mussels in the Pacific Ocean inlet contained oxycodone, an opioid used to treat moderate and severe pain, reports CNN.
The levels of opioids in the waters were thousands of times smaller than a human dose, but data shows that the USA opioid epidemic has filtered down to other species in America's ecosystems. He explained that the areas where they took mussels contaminated with oxycodone are highly urbanized. 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.
It's possible, however, that the opioids could affect fish, which are known to respond to the drugs, James added.
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.
Researchers said the mussels aren't harmed by the opioids because they don't metabolize them, but other fish can.
Scientist Andy James at the Puget Sound Institute assisted with the study.More news: Manchester United closing in on their first major signing of the summer
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Mussels are filter-feeders, which means they filter water for nutrients to nourish themselves. In the process, "they pick up all sorts of contaminants, so at any given time their body tissues record data about water quality over the previous two to four months", the institute explains.
They deposited mussels into 18 locations.
Scientists have discovered oxycodone in mussels when testing water for contamination. "These are the mussels we use in our analyses". But as they filter food from the water, mussels may also absorb any chemicals and pollutants floating around them, Live Science reported in 2014. "When that data came back to us, we found oxycodone in three of those 18 samples".
"People should be wary", Lanksbury said.
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.
Lanksbury also specifies that the contamination is limited to the urban areas of the Puget Sound, while most of the other shorelines of the sound are shown to be clean.