Mussels in Washington’s Puget Sound test positive for opioids, other drugs


Researchers at Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife have discovered that mussels in the Seattle's waters are trying positive for the opioids.

While mussels likely don't metabolize drugs like oxycodone, and thus wouldn't necessarily be physically harmed by the presence of it in their tissues, studies show that fish are not so lucky.

People in the greater Seattle area are consuming so many opioids that, for the first time, scientists have detected traces of the drugs in mussels in local waters.

The concentrations were thousands of times lower than those that would affect humans, research scientist Andy James of the Puget Sound Institute said in a statement, and weren't in areas where edible mussels are harvested-even in the best of circumstances, no one wants to eat an urban mussel.

The Puget Sound Institute, a partner in the study, said none of the opioid-positive mussels were near commercial shellfish beds.

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Mussels are channel feeders, which imply they channel water for supplements to support themselves. Instead, they were used specifically to measure levels of pollution in the waters of Puget Sound, according to a May 9 statement from the Puget Sound Institute (PSI) at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

Opioids, antibiotics, drugs for depression - mussels are testing positive for all of it.

"These drugs, we're taking them, and then we're excreting them in our urine so it gets to the wastewater treatment plant in that way", Lanksbury said.

Lanksbury said the containments can have negative impacts on fish and shellfish in the surrounding areas.

An estimated 300 pounds of pharmaceuticals and personal care products are dumped into Puget Sound every day, according to a 2016 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published by Science Direct.

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Scientists looking for signs of water pollution find marine life contaminated with pharmaceuticals. Some of the oxycodone consumed by people end up in the toilet before going to wastewater treatment plants. To test the water, Lanksbury and her team get clean mussels and put them in antipredator cages.

Almost two decades ago, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study and found "measurable amounts" of medications in a whopping 80 percent of water samples that were collected from 139 steams across 30 states.

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

Two were near Bremerton's shipyard and one was in Elliot Bay near Harbor Island in Seattle.

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