Scientists have found cocaine in every shrimp they studied while investigating the contamination of wildlife. They have also found other chemicals, such as banned pesticides.
What is going on?
In July 2018, scientists collected shrimp sample from 15 sites across five river catchments in the county of Suffolk. on the east coast of England.
Scientists were able to recognize coke in every sample, as well as lidocaine, an anesthetic. According to the study authors, dealers often use this to bulk up the cocaine. Scientists believe that leakages or overflows from sewers could have caused cocaine to enter the water.
The UK has a ban on fenuron and there were large traces in the shrimp. Ketamine, the animal tranquilizer which is commonly used as a party drug, was also identified. So was the opioid medication Tramadol and an antidepressant.
Scientists might have expected to find drugs in urban areas, such as London, but not in rural areas. Finding the source of banned pesticides remains unclear and poses a challenge to experts.
What is going to happen?
Lead author of the study, Dr. Thomas Miller, says that although concentrations were low, they were able to identify combinations that might be of concern to the environment. This might pose a risk to wildlife.
As a part of their ongoing work, they found that the most frequently discovered compounds were illicit drugs. Specifically cocaine and ketamine and a banned pesticide, fenuron. However, for many of these, the potential for any effect is likely to be low.
Study co-author professor Nic Bury said that further research would show whether the existence of cocaine in aquatic animals is a concern for Suffolk, or if it’s more widespread.
Due to challenges associated with climate change, Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to problems related to climate change and microplastic pollution. However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical contamination (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the U.K. as studies such as these can often inform the policy.