America is facing an opioid addiction epidemic, and it is not just affecting humans. In Puget Sound, off the western coast of Washington state, scientists have discovered marine life contaminated with oxycodone.
Mussels in Puget Sound tested positive for the drug when scientists were doing a routine examination of water pollution, according to a KIRO News 7 report. To check for contamination, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) move fresh, clean mussels from Penn Cove on Whidby Island to any water that scientists want to test.
The WDFW, along with a team from the Puget Sound Institute, analyzed the mussels after leaving them in the water for a period of time, and the researchers were stunned to find them polluted with oxycodone. This marks the first time the opioid has ever been found in marine life in Washington.
"It's telling me there's a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area," said WDFW biologist Jennifer Lanksbury. "The contamination is likely coming from wastewater treatment plants."
While water does get filtered for contaminants by the King County Wastewater treatment facility before entering Puget Sound, the system does not catch everything. Officials with the plant told KIRO 7 that drugs are one of several pollutant types that easily pass through the filters.