River-dwelling Shrimp Laced With Cocaine And Other Illicit Drugs Discovered In UK


Cocaine and other illegal drugs and even banned pesticides were found in shrimps in British waterways, according to a study.

Cocaine-laced Shrimps

Freshwater shrimps across 15 sites in the Suffolk River were found contaminated with various micropollutants such as cocaine, recreational drug ketamine, banned pesticide fenuron, and other chemicals. This is a cause for concern as these pollutants may pose risks to wildlife in rivers.

Even the researchers from King's College London and the University of Suffolk were astonished at the occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife in a rural county.

"We might expect to see these in urban areas such as London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments," said Leon Barron, a forensic science lecturer at King's College London and the study's coauthor.

A hundred percent of the Gammarus pulex shrimp samples tested positive for the presence of cocaine. The samples came from the Alde, Box, Deben, Gipping, and Waveney rivers.

Impacts Of Invisible Pollution

A total of 107 compounds of contaminant classes were found in the shrimps. Out of this, 67 compounds belong to pharmaceuticals, pesticides, illicit drugs, and drugs of abuse while 56 compounds were detected with traces of cocaine and lidocaine. In addition, some banned pesticides also were present in the samples.

The concentration of the said substances are low and the potential effects on creatures were also likely minimal.

"Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution," said Professor Nic Bury from the University of Suffolk.

The researchers said that the impact of "invisible" chemical pollution, such as drugs, on wildlife health needs further probing in the UK because studies such as these can often inform and influence the crafting of policies.

Water contamination is a rising problem as residue from insecticides, and recreational drugs are finding their way into rivers and water system. As to how the pollutants reached the bodies of water, still, remain unclear.

Water Pollution Affecting River Health

River health is said to be one of the UK's most pressing environmental crises. In 2017, at least 55 percent of the rivers in the UK are polluted by sewage or wastewater. There are more than 18,000 sewer overflows across England and Wales. Out of these, an estimated 90 percent discharge raw sewage or wastewater mixed with rainwater directly into the rivers.

Other river pollutants include wastes from agricultural pollution, oil pollution, loss from storage facilities, and spillage during delivery and deliberate disposal of waste oil to drainage systems. Radioactive substance is also polluting rivers. River dumping and marine dumping are also significant causes of water pollution.

The study is published in the journal Environment International.

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