A team of researchers led by King’s College London discovered a wide range of chemicals, including illicit drugs and pesticides, in UK riverine fauna. The study was the first of its kind to examine how animals such as freshwater shrimp can be affected by exposure to various micropollutants.
“Although the concentrations are low, we were able to identify compounds which could be of concern to the environment and, more importantly, which could pose a risk to wildlife,” said lead author of the study, Dr Thomas. Miller. âAs part of our ongoing work, we found that the most frequently detected compounds were illicit drugs, including cocaine and ketamine, and a banned pesticide, fenuron. Although for many of them the potential for any effect is probably low. “
Prescription drugs, drugs and other consumer products often end up in rivers, releasing thousands of different chemicals that can harm the environment. The team collected samples from five catchment areas and 15 different sites in the county of Suffolk in England.
The researchers found that traces of cocaine were present in all the samples collected. Other illicit drugs such as ketamine, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals were also found to be prevalent in the shrimp tested.
âSuch a regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising,â said study co-author Dr. Leon Barron. âWe might expect to see them in urban areas like London, but not in smaller, more rural watersheds. The presence of pesticides that have long been banned in the UK also poses a particular challenge as the sources of these remain unclear. “
‘Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is a problem for Suffolk, or a more prevalent occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research,’ explained Professor Nic Bury of the Suffolk University. âEnvironmental health has gained a lot of public attention due to the challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution. However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution (like drugs) on wildlife health needs to be further targeted in the UK, as policy can often be informed by studies such as these. “
The study is published in the journal International environment.
Through Chrissy sexton, Terre.com Editor-in-chief