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Mussels in salt water test positive for opioids

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Seattle

Scientists looking for water pollution discover opioids are infiltrating marine life near Seattle.

"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. Scientists have also identified antibiotics, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, and heart medication in mussels' systems.

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 said that for the first time, mussels living in parts of the Puget Sound are testing positive for oxycodone, a prescription drug used to alleviate pain in humans.

"What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound", Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told CBS affiliate KIRO-7 in Seattle.

It's just one of hundreds of pharmaceuticals that native mussels have absorbed from the waters of Puget Sound. And none of the mussels tested are near any commercial shellfish beds.

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"What this is telling us is some of this stuff is coming out of our wastewater treatment plants and so we need to do a better job either at controlling the sources or trying to reduce the exposure in the Puget Sound", said Lanksbury.

There's enough opioids in Elliott Bay for mussels to register for that when they're put in the water. However, the presence of this drug in the mollusk speaks to the high number of people in the urban areas surrounding the Puget Sound who take this medication, said Lanksbury. The fear is that salmon and other fish may have similar responses.

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

"We decided it was important for us to start looking for 'contaminants of emerging concern,' " she said.

Lanksbury said the research couldn't have been done without an army of citizen science volunteers who put the mussels out in low tide during the winter, and retrieved them three months later.

Scientists worked with the Puget Sound Institute to analyze the data and discovered three out of 18 locations came back positive for trace amounts of oxycodone.

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