Mussels off the coast of Seattle have tested positive for oxycodone, a semisynthetic opioid. Scientists used cages to place clean mussels into 18 urbanized locations around Puget Sound. These were then collected several months later, with mussels from three out of the 18 locations testing positive for trace amounts of oxycodone.
As mussels are 'filter feeders', they absorb contaminants into their tissues, indicating the presence of opioids in the water.
How did the contamination occur? When humans ingest oxycodone, traces of it are ultimately excreted: in this case, the waste water entered the Puget Sound, where the mussels were placed.
The discovery of the opioids present in the mussels at Puget Sound has demonstrated the sheer scale of opioid epidemic. Hopefully this information will be used to provide a more targeted response in the surrounding area, to help curb the rise in opioid addiction.