According to the folks at the Puget Sound Institute, the waters in Washington's Puget Sound contain enough Oxycodone that the drug is now showing up in the tissues of mussels that have been collected there. That was determined by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which regularly tests the pollutants present in the urban waters by putting mussels from known clean areas there and checking what chemicals accumulate in their tissues over the course of two to three months. Fortunately, the mollusks have only so far shown trace amounts of the drug (not even close to enough to affect you), but it's a troubling revelation all the same.
“We found Oxycodone in only three of the 18 sets of mussels we analyzed,” biologist Jennifer Lanksbury told local NBC affiliate KING5, per a report from Munchies. “The concentration of Oxycodone in the mussels were about 100 to 500 times less than than you would get in a normal therapeutic dose for humans. So you'd have to eat 150 pounds of mussels in that contaminated area to get a minimal dose.” It's also worth noting that one of the researchers at Puget Sound Institute said it's unlikely anyone would actually be collecting seafood to eat from the affected areas.
So how do these drugs end up in such high concentrations to affect creatures living in the ocean? Well, it's generally because enough people are using them -- and peeing them out -- that they're being introduced via wastewater treatment plants, which can only remove so many toxins, chemicals, and other pollutants from waste. It's the same sort of issue that's led to rudd in the Niagara River to test positive for antidepressants, and salmon off the coast of Washington to test positive for a whole grab bag of drugs including Valium, Lipitor, and cocaine.
Obviously, the root issue here is human opioid addiction, which seems to only be getting worse and worse. Still, the fact that this sort of insidiously addictive stuff is now showing up in our potential food supply is just another reason for us to prioritize fighting the problem.