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Mussels In Puget Sound Test Positive For Opioids, Other Drugs: Should People Stop Eating The Shellfish?

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Traces of an opioid painkiller have been found in mussels in Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean along the northwestern coast of the state of Washington.

Mussels Tested Positive For Oxycodone

The shellfish tested positive for oxycodone opioid painkiller. The detected amount, however, was 100 to 500 times less than the normal therapeutic dose for humans. This means that it would take eating 150 pounds of mussels in the contaminated area to have the minimal therapeutic dose.

It isn't just traces of opioid that have been detected in mussels. Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in fact said that the opioid could be the least worrisome of chemicals detected in mussels.

Other Chemicals Detected In Mussels

The researchers also found synthetic surfactants — which are used in detergents and cleaning products — antibiotics, antidiabetic drug, antidepressants, and the chemotherapy drug Melphalan in the shellfish.

Surfactants are known to have estrogenic effects. They affect the hormone system of some animals in a way that could feminize male fish and make female fish reproductive before they are ready.

The researchers likewise detected high levels of Melphalan, a potential carcinogen because of its interaction with the DNA.

Andy James, from Puget Sound Institute who took part in the study, said that the amount of the chemotherapy drug found in mussels is at a level that calls for an investigation for biological impacts.

The mussels ingested amount of Melphalan relative by weight to the recommended dose for humans.

Is It Safe To Eat Mussels?

Should people stop eating mussels? The researchers said that the tainted mussels were from areas considered highly urbanized and not near any commercial shellfish bed.

"You wouldn't want to collect (and eat) mussels from these urban bays," James said.

Lanksbury said that the mussels offered at restaurants and sold at stores are likely healthy because they were sourced from clean locations.

Ideal For Tracking Water Pollution

Mussels are ideal for tracking toxins in marine life because they are filter feeders. They pick up all kinds of contaminants as they eat microscopic plants and animals strained out of seawater.

The mussels likely do not metabolize opioid, but researchers raised concern for fish since they respond to the drug.

The researchers likewise said that since they found opioids and other contaminants in mussels, the chemicals are also present in the water, which could impact creatures that live in it.

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