So you’re telling me the shrimp got fried?
Cocaine, ketamine, Valium, Xanax, tramadol, and other powerful drugs have been discovered in the bodies of freshwater shrimp and their environment in rural England. In an unexpected twist, the researchers discovered residues of various pesticides that are currently prohibited by the EU.
Scientists from King’s College London examined levels of micropollutants in surface water samples and Gammarus pulex freshwater shrimp from 15 distinct sites in Suffolk, England, in the journal Environment International in 2019.
They were astounded to find trace quantities of at least 67 distinct contaminating chemicals. Cocaine was the most often discovered pollutant, found in every single shrimp from all 15 locations.
“Such frequent prevalence of illegal substances in animals was shocking,” said Dr Leon Barron, a forensic scientist at King’s College.
“These may be expected in urban places like London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments.” “The discovery of pesticides that have long been prohibited in the UK provides a special issue because the sources of these remain unknown,” Dr Barron noted.
The effect of the illicit substances on the shrimp is not clear, although it’s unlikely to be doing them any good. The team is now digging deeper into the problem and carrying out further research into the effects of the pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants on shrimp and other aquatic animals.
“Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread an occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research,” added study author Professor Nic Bury from the University of Suffolk.
“Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution. However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK as policy can often be informed by studies such as these.”
Other research have looked at the effects of particular medications on aquatic fauna. A 2018 research discovered that European eels exposed to low doses of cocaine suffer permanent physiological impairment. Because these creatures are already highly endangered, their drug addiction might be serious enough to imperil the species’ existence.
The original version of this article was published in May 2019.