"It seems like the prescriptions for opioids are high enough that it's starting to come out in the waters here at least in the really you know, dense urban corridors", Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Jennifer Lanksbury told Global News.
The data was gathered via the Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring Program, which transports uncontaminated mussels from nearby Whidbey Island to "highly urbanized" areas away from any commercial shellfish beds.
"These drugs, we're taking them, and then we're excreting them in our urine so it gets to the wastewater treatment plant in that way", Lanksbury said. They discovered that the mussels tested positive for oxycodone, which means the waters are contaminated with opioids.
She adds that people flushing their drugs down the toilet may also be a source of the pharmaceuticals.
State researchers distributed clean mussels around the Puget Sound and extracted them months later to test the waters.
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Researchers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have discovered trace amounts of opioids in mussels in several locations off the Seattle coast - a telling sign of the severity of the opioid problem that has plagued communities across the country.
"A lot of the pharmaceuticals are probably coming out of our wastewater treatment plants", Lanksbury says in CNN.
"Hopefully our data shows what's out there and can get the process started for cleaning up our waters", she said. The drug was found at "levels where we might want to look at biological impacts", said James.
According to the WDFW, people who eat mussels from a restaurant or grocery store should not be anxious about getting high on opioids. "These are the mussels we use in our analyses".
Almost two decades ago, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study and found "measurable amounts" of medications in a whopping 80 percent of water samples that were collected from 139 steams across 30 states.
One of the samples came from the shoreline of Seattle, and the two others came from near Bremerton, she said.
Mussels are channel feeders, which imply they channel water for supplements to support themselves. Scientists worry that the oxycodone could affect juvenile chinook salmon and other species in Puget Sound.