Traces Of Opioids Found In Seattle-Area Mussels

Traces Of Opioids Found In Seattle-Area Mussels

After getting clean mussels from Penn Cove on Whidbey Island, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife tested them for water contamination.

The department conducted the tests in conjunction with the Puget Sound Institute.

The shellfish tested were not near any commercial fishing beds, and the amount of opioids discovered in the mussels "were thousands of times smaller than a typical human dose", the Puget Sound Institute said, according to the outlet. The chemotherapy drug Melphalan was also found in the shellfish, in "levels where we might want to look at biological impacts", Puget Sound Institute researcher Andy James said in a blog post.

It's possible, however, that the opioids could affect fish, which are known to respond to the drugs, James added.

The mussels were part of the state's Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring Program.

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.

There's enough opioids in Elliott Bay for mussels to register for that when they're put in the water.

State scientists dispersed clean mussels around the Puget Sound and extricated them months after the fact to try things out.

Scientists then collect the mussels, grind them up, and analyze contaminants.

Puget Sound waters contain many chemical compounds, like pharmaceuticals or even drugs like cocaine.

"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. The shellfish are filter feeders who gain nourishment from their surroundings, while simultaneously absorbing whatever contaminants are also in the water - making them an ideal barometer for environmental scientists to test water pollution in a given area. Three of locations came back positive for oxycodone, two near Bremerton and Elliot Bay.

Also in 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that almost 300lbs (136kg) of pharmaceuticals, personal care products and industrial compounds ended up in the Puget Sound each day, some at high enough concentrations to negatively impact fish.

Lanksbury says it's still safe to eat mussels in areas that aren't urbanized, like the ones served at restaurants and fish markets.

"In juvenile Chinook salmon, we found doses of antidepressants and heart medications that are at levels that we would maybe start to see negative effects on the survival of those juvenile Chinook salmon", she said.

Of 18 areas researchers utilized, three indicated hints of oxycodone.