Cocaine and other drugs found in UK Shrimp:

Cathal Walsh
Environmental Blogger
Friday, 3rd May 2019
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Cocaine and other drugs found in UK Shrimp:

Pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other personal care products often find their way into freshwater lakes and rivers. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, and the main reason, is because people using these substances seek to dispose of them and rather than doing so in the right method they end up flushing them down the toilet or washing them down the drain. Secondly because often enough waste water isn’t treated well enough before it is put back into rivers and lakes.

A recent study by the Kings College Toxicology department has found   that small amounts of pesticides, cocaine and other banned substances have been found in UK freshwater shrimp.

We found that the most frequently detected compounds were illicit drugs, including cocaine and ketamine and a banned pesticide, fenuron," said King's College London environmental toxicologist Thomas Miller.

For years scientists have found that illicit substances and pharmaceuticals have been making their way into rivers and lakes, however not much is known about how these substances affect the ecosystem in these freshwater areas.

Researchers from Kings College collected samples Gammarus pulex shrimp from 15 locations in Suffolk in northeast London.

The study showed that cocaine was found in samples from every single one of the testing sites. The concentration of cocaine did not fluctuate much between sites showing widespread contamination.

Lidocaine, which is often used as a mixing agent for cocaine was the second most common substance found. The study also detected ketamine, alprazolam and diazepam. The researchers stated “Such regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising. We might expect to see these in urban areas such as London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments”.

Pesticides can enter the water through runoff and their damage to human health depends on how toxic the pesticide is. The fact that the pesticides found in the shrimp have long been banned in the UK poses a particular challenge to ascertain where they came from.

Studies like this are not surprising however, in 2016, scientists found numerous drugs, including amphetamine, in streams around Baltimore.

This trend is concerning, the best way to deal with it however is to prevent pharmaceuticals from getting into waterways by encouraging individuals to dispose of them properly, rather than flushing them down the toilet or otherwise.

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