Most people are aware of the dangers in our food, including fish. We have been educated on the health concerns of farmed fish, given the fact that most contain contaminants like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins, and other chlorinated pesticides. We are also aware that toxic contaminants from oceans can still harm the wild fish as well. But what most of us weren’t prepared for is salmon filled with drugs like Advil, Benadryl, Prozac, Lipitor, and worst of all – Cocaine.
This is the case for Puget Sound salmon. These drugs, including many others, have showed up in the tissues of juvenile chinook as a result of tainted wastewater discharge. The effluent samples, and the samples taken from the estuary waters near the outfalls of sewage-treatment plants, showed a shocking discovery of cocktails of 81 drugs and personal care products. The contamination levels revealed to be among the highest in the nation.
This is a growing concern, not only in the US but in Canada as well.
According to Jim Meador, who is an environmental toxicologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and the lead author on a studyÂ published in the journal Environmental Pollution, the levels may be this high as a result of people in this area using more of the drugs found. It may also be the result of wastewater-treatment plants’ processes.
As Meador explained, â€œThe concentrations in effluent were higher than we expected,â€? â€œWe analyzed samples for 150 compounds and we had 61 percent of them detected in effluent. So we know these are going into the estuaries.â€?
The mentioned chemicals were found both in the water as well as the tissues of juvenile chinook salmon and staghorn sculpin. The researchers explain that the study likely even underreported the amount of drugs found in the water closer to the outfall pipes, or in deeper water.
Meador did also another research, which showed that juvenile chinook salmon that’s migrating through contaminated estuaries in Puget Sound dies as twice the rate of fish elsewhere. The effects of this pollution on our environment, waterways, and life there, is of great concern.
However, health officials claim that the levels of contaminations are of no concern when it comes to human health, but we’ve heard that many times before. Even trace amounts of these chemicals consumed over long periods of time can cause severe DNA damage.
According to the study, the Puget Sound area is a home to 106 publicly owned wastewater-treatment plants that discharge to the local waters, and the amount of chemicals and drugs from those plants could add up to 97,00 pounds each year.
Treatment plants are not very successful at removing certain drugs in wastewater, and seizure drugs are among the hardest to remove. According to Betsy Cooper, a permit administrator for the county’s Wastewater Treatment Division, â€œYou have treatment doing its best to remove these, chemically and biologically, but itâ€™s not just the treatment quality, itâ€™s also the amount that we use day to day and our assumption that it just goes away, but not everything goes away.”
However, the study wasn’t concerned about the safety of drinking water since Seattle Public Utilities customers are receiving first-use water from the high Cascades, above any wastewater discharge and remote from human populations and septic tanks.