If we need another reason to stop pollution, cocaine-addicted eels is a pretty good one.
To study the effects of pharmacological pollution in water sources, Italian scientists conducted an experiment in which they dosed silver eels with cocaine for a period of 50 days, monitoring for any hormonal and/or histological effects. As you can expect, the results were not entirely pleasant.
Side effects incurred by the tweaked-out eels included a thickening of the skin and a depletion of epidermal mucus (which in turn lessens both their ability to find sexual partners and to protect themselves from disease), reduced hormone production, endocrinal damage and hyperactivity (obviously).
Besides the immediate consequences of exposure, "the changes induced by cocaine in the skin, the intestine and the endocrine system could threaten the ability of the eel to successfully migrate and reproduce," according to a report on the findings. And we all know what happens if there is even a minuscule imbalance in an ecosystem: it suffers catastrophic and irreparable harm.
While turning fish into cokeheads is not a new thing, the context of the study is unique. Rather than using the data collected and developing analogous theories in relation to the effects of cocaine abuse in humans, this particular experiment is concerned with the hypothetical environmental aftermath of chemical dumping in waterways and sewer systems.
In Italy, cocaine-rich rivers aren't as hypothetical as one might think. In June 2014, a study published by Scientific Research reported that around 15 grams of cocaine pass through the Sarno river on a daily basis, not to mention traces of morphine and codeine.
While 15 grams might not seem like a significant amount, keep in mind that it took 20 nanograms to completely coke out the eels in the first study — only 0.00000002 of a gram.
The only question left: will the scientists pay for eel rehab?
Photo: Peter Harrison | Flickr