Trace amounts of opioids found in shellfish off Seattle coast

Faith Castro
May 27, 2018

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.

Mussels in other parts of Puget Sound did not contain the 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.

Besides oxycodone, mussels tested this year showed levels of antidepressants, heart drugs, antibiotics and the common chemotherapy drug melphalan, which is a potential carcinogen.

People have nothing to worry about when it comes to eating mussels from a restaurant or shop because they come from clean locations., but it's another sign of what's ending up in the water and harming marine life.

Researchers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have discovered trace amounts of opioids in mussels in several locations off the Seattle coast - a telling sign of the severity of the opioid problem that has plagued communities across the country.

"Those are definitely chemicals that are out there in the nearshore waters, and they may be having an impact on the fish and shellfish that live there", Lanksbury said. The drug was found at "levels where we might want to look at biological impacts", warned Andy James of the Puget Sound Institute, who assisted in the study.

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The mussels were found in three out of 18 test sites from a highly urbanized area. "The contamination is likely coming from wastewater treatment plants".

Mussels do not metabolise opioids, but some fish can become addicted.

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

Canadian researchers say similar contaminants are also found in waters in Canada.

"We found oxycodone in only three of the 18 sets of mussels we analyzed". "You wouldn't want to collect [or eat] mussels from these urban bays", James said.

"Mussels have a simpler system than fish, and that makes them great for monitoring", Lanksbury said. 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.

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