Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife started testing mussels in 2012.
While mussels likely don't metabolize drugs like oxycodone, and thus wouldn't necessarily be physically harmed by the presence of it in their tissues, studies show that fish are not so lucky.
Melphalan was present at "levels where we might want to look at biological impacts", scientist Andy James of the Puget Sound Institute said in a statement.
Small amounts of drugs are deposited in human waste after they're ingested, which wastewater management systems struggle to completely remove, resulting in trace amounts of narcotics being dumped into oceans, according to the outlet. Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly places mussels raised in controlled, pollution-free environments at 18 set locations around Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.
Researchers at the Puget Sound Institute who analyzed the mussels said the discovery of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in harbors in the Seattle and Bremerton areas is not uncommon - but the organization noted this is the first time that opioids have been found in local shellfish.
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Scientists looking for water pollution discover opioids are infiltrating marine life near Seattle. (Other contenders: "impactful", "content", "utilize", "normalize", "incel.") Nevertheless, it appears to be the mot juste for passing on the news that people in the PNW take so much heroin, fentanyl, Vicodin, OxyContin, Oxycodone, and oxytocin (probably) that even the shellfish in the region are getting a contact high.
The mussels came from very urban areas and are reportedly not near any commercial shellfish beds where mussels are harvested for food. Zebrafish, commonly used for research, have apparently learned to dose themselves with opioids.
The reason mussels are the preferred test subject to track toxins in marine life is because they are filter feeders, eating microscopic plants and animals that they strain out of seawater. That said, it is concerning for fish, especially threatened species like salmon.