The ongoing opioid epidemic has killed thousands of people in the US and Canada. But it does not just affect people – a recent study has highlighted the harmful effects of our drug crisis on our aquatic wildlife.
Last winter, a team of researchers from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife brought clean, healthy seashells into the sea the waters of Puget Sound in Washington. When they picked up the same clams three months later and tested for pollutants, the results were disturbing: the clams had taken traces of oxycodone as well as chemo-therapeutics, antidepressants, antibiotics and heart medications.
How did that happen? of evil pharmaceuticals into the water? Lead biologist Jennifer Lanksbury says they may have been flushed out of the toilet or excreted by humans, and sewage management systems have not effectively filtered them out before the water found its way into the ocean.
Although mussels are unlikely to metabolize the drugs as they are filter eaters, the chemicals that swim around in the water can have a greater impact on other species in the area. "Things like, they can affect the growth of organisms, their hormonal systems, their ability to reproduce," Lanksbury cites as the possible consequences of opioids and other drugs on marine life.
The mussels we tested were contaminated at some distance from the sea As we know, the pollution quickly spreads in our oceans and can end in the bellies of the marine life, even in the deepest waters. According to a recent study by the University of Ghent, people who consume seafood regularly consume 1
Considering the long list of potentially dangerous substances that have been found in aquatic animals and kept away from seafood seems to be the best step for your personal health. Apart from the fact that tiny pieces of plastic and accidental chemicals will not get into your body, reducing seafood consumption will also help protect the fragile ecosystems of our oceans, which are currently threatened by ruthless trapping practices.
This study is a reminder that we are all connected in our ecological network, and although we may not be able to control how our medicines get into the water supply, we can help reduce other forms of pollution such as plastic. To learn more about how you can protect the health of the ocean by reducing your plastic consumption, take a look at One Green Planet's # CrushPlastic campaign.