Mussels off Washington state test positive for opioids and antibiotics

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

In fact, according to the Puget Sound Institute, studies have shown that, when exposed to opioids, zebrafish will learn to dose themselves, and scientists believe salmon and other fish might respond similarly.

These mussels, however, were never meant to end up on the dinner table.

When humans ingest opioids like oxycodone, they ultimately end up excreting traces of the drugs into the toilet.

Scientists took mussels from an aquaculture source that were drug free, and placed them in 18 residential areas around Puget Sound for several months, before teaming up with Puget Sound Institute to re-test the marine life to see if any had been contaminated with opioids, CBS News reported.

Scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have found trace amounts of oxycodone in the Puget Sound using a study involving mussels.

King County Wastewater Management told KIRO7 that although their system has the potential to detect and filter out most contaminants from the water, it can not catch everything. Three of locations came back positive for oxycodone, two near Bremerton and Elliot Bay.

Mussels off Washington state test positive for opioids and antibiotics
Mussels off Washington state test positive for opioids and antibiotics

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

"We found antibiotics, we found antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, heart medications and also oxycodone", said biologist Jennifer Lanksbury. But it does pose worrying questions about the health of local fish, who are more responsive to opioids.

Andy James, a research scientist at the PSI, noted in the statement that the levels of opioids detected in the mussels were thousands of times lower than a therapeutic dose in humans and would not be expected to affect the mussels, which don't break down the drug.

The mussels tested positive in three of the 18 locations.

Still, the discovery of opioid-positive shellfish in Puget Sound is a stark new milestone in the epidemic, showing that enough humans are hooked on these life-altering drugs for the trace chemicals they excrete to register in other species in our coastal waters.

"You wouldn't want to collect [and eat] mussels from these urban bays", he said.


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