Many health-aware Americans have been told of the dangers in food, including salmon. They have been educated on the health concerns of farmed salmon given its contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and several chlorinated pesticides. They have also learned that toxic contaminants from oceans can still harm the wild fish as well. But what many weren’t prepared for was salmon filled with drugs like Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, and even cocaine.
Puget Sound Salmon Samples
This is the case for Puget Sound salmon. These drugs, and dozens of others, are showing up in the tissues of juvenile chinook as a result of tainted wastewater discharge. The estuary waters near the outfalls of sewage-treatment plants, and effluent sampled at the plants, were the shocking discovering of cocktails of 81 drugs and personal-care products, with levels revealed to be among the highest in the nation.
The samples, which were gathered over two days in September 2014 from Sinclair Inlet, near the mouth of Blair Waterway in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, detected other common drugs as well. These include flonase, aleve, tylenol, paxil, valium, zoloft, tagamet, oxycontin, darvon, nicotine, caffeine. There were also fungicides, antiseptics and anticoagulants, along with cipro and other antibiotics.
The levels may be so heightened as a result of people in this area using more of the drugs detected. It could also be the result of wastewater-treatment plant processes. Even the fish of the intended control water in the Nisqually estuary tested positive for chemicals.
Juvenile Chinook Salmon
Juvenile chinook salmon migrating through contaminated estuaries in Puget Sound die at twice the rate of fish elsewhere. The effect this pollution is having on our environment, waterways, and life that dwells there, is of great concern. Health officials say that that the levels of contaminants are of no concern when it comes to human health, but how many times have we heard that before? Even trace amounts of chemicals consumed over long periods of time can cause serious DNA damage.
The Puget Sound area is home to 106 publicly owned wastewater-treatment plants that discharge to local waters, and the amount of drugs and chemicals from all those plants could add up to 97,000 pounds every year, according to a study. Treatment plants aren’t completely successful at removing some drugs in wastewater. With seizure drugs being among the hardest to remove.
Jessica Payne, spokeswoman for the State Department of Ecology, notes that the agency is in dire need of more research funding to monitor the presence and examine the impact of chemicals like the ones found in the study. “Ongoing research is really our best tool to understand these chemicals,” Payne noted.
The study wasn’t concerned with the safety of drinking water, however, since Seattle Public Utilities customers receive first-use water from the high Cascades, above any wastewater discharge and remote from human populations and septic tanks.