Mussels near Seattle test positive for opioids

Researchers say mussels are filter feeders meaning they absorb contaminants from the surrounding water into their tissue

Seattle Mussels Test Positive for Opioids

Other chemicals found in Puget Sound waters ranged from pharmaceuticals to illegal substances like cocaine, but scientists have never found opioids in local shellfish until 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.

Although, for now, at least, there is little chance that an oxycodone-infused mussel will end up on your plate, this new discovery underscores the increasing severity of the opioid epidemic nationwide and its potential effects on the environment. As the mussels eat by filtering water, their tissue provides an insight into contaminants.

Seattle Mussels Test Positive for Opioids

"The doses of oxycodone that we found in mussels are like 100 to 500 times lower than you would need for an adult male therapeutic dose", she said. They then test them for contaminants about three months later as part of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program.

The Puget Sound Institute researchers said the levels of oxycodone in the mussels were thousands of times lower than the medical dose, and explained the animals likely don't metabolize the drug.

"We found antibiotics, we found antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, heart medications and also oxycodone", said biologist Jennifer Lanksbury.

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"A lot of the pharmaceuticals are probably coming out of our wastewater treatment plants".

After people consume oxycodone, some of it ends up in the toilet and goes into wastewater.

The opioids ended up in the sound through human sewage which is processed by wastewater management systems that can't filter out drugs.

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She says mussels at a restaurant or store are healthy because they come from clean locations.

Fish and Wildlife said testing mussels for prescription drugs was a one-time study, but it will look for more funding to see what's happening to the water over time.

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

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The mussels tested came from highly urbanized areas, far from commercial shellfish beds where mussels are raised for food, according to the PSI. "So you'd have to eat 150 pounds of mussels in that contaminated area to get a minimal dose".

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