It’s Friday. Up for a big night, yeah? Well, it’s not the bathroom stall you and your giggling posse need head to, but the fish counter of the local supermarket. According to new research, the humble salmon could be pumped full of as much white powder as any of the bath salt-cut baggies (sorry, “purest shit”) plied outside nightclub bathrooms.
As the Seattle Times reported last month (and frantic British tabloids picked up this week), in 2014, researchers from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found traces of cocaine—as well as Advil, Prozac, and Benadryl—in the tissue of juvenile salmon from the Puget Sound inlet on the northwestern coast of Washington.
Alongside what reads like a Hunter S. Thompson breakfast cocktail, researchers found that wastewater from this area contained Valium, Zoloft, OxyContin, caffeine, nicotine fungicides, and antiseptics. In total, there were traces of over 80 drugs or—as the Times described it—“antibiotics galore.”
Jim Meador, environmental toxicologist and lead author of the study reporting the contamination told the newspaper: “The concentrations in effluent [sewage water] were higher than we expected. We analysed samples for 150 compounds and we had 61 percent of them detected in effluent. So we know these are going into the estuaries.”
But how exactly are the fish getting hold of the good stuff?
Around 100 wastewater treatment plants currently empty water from households into the Puget Sound. While the plants are meant to filter out contaminants, this doesn’t always happen. Betsy Cooper, permit administrator for King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division explained to the newspaper that while plants are working hard to clean the water, “not everything goes away.”
She said: “You have treatment doing its best to remove these, chemically and biologically, but it’s not just the treatment quality, it’s also the amount that we use day to day and our assumption that it just goes away.”
Seattle’s salmon aren’t the only ones with a habit. Last year McGill University’s Department of Chemical Engineering found that fish in the Grand River Watershed in Southern Ontario were swimming in water dosed with recreational and prescription drugs including oxycodone and cocaine. It might be time someone set up a Narcotics Anonymous group for water-dwelling creatures.
King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division has assured residents that ongoing research is being carried out on how best to rid the wastewater of contaminants. Seattleites probably needn’t to worry about sushi rolls giving them dilated pupils and a sudden urge to talk about themselves, either. Researchers say that the drug traces found in the fish are of little threat to human health since juvenile salmon aren’t usually caught for food.
Getting buzzed off smoked salmon blinis did sound a little too ballin’ to be true.