A team of researchers in the United Kingdom was conducting river water chemical analyses when they happened upon a mind-boggling finding: freshwater shrimp (Gammarus pulex) that had been collected from each of the team’s 15 rural test sites in Suffolk appeared to test positive for the presence of contaminants and illicit drugs.
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According to the researchers’ findings, which have been published in the journal Environment International, the shrimp samples displayed traces of deeply-concerning chemicals in their systems, including the likes of cocaine and ketamine, among others.
"Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread an occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research," commented Prof. Nicolas Bury of the University of Suffolk, a co-author of the study.
But as it would seem, it wasn’t just the presence of illicit drugs that concerned the researchers – they were also perturbed to find a plethora of outlawed pesticides and pharmaceuticals in the shrimp samples. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the findings have raised a few red flags.
"Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution," Bury added. "However, the impact of 'invisible' chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK."
The study underscores a concerning situation in Suffolk, and it’s entirely possible that similar circumstances have befallen other parts of the world and went unnoticed. Sadly, it’s unclear what impact these chemicals and drugs might have on the local wildlife, if any at all.
The researchers were also particularly astonished to find such heavy traces of these chemicals in the rural regions they sampled. They instead would have expected to see these circumstances in urban areas such as London, where there are more people to tarnish the environment.
Adding insult to injury, many of the discovered chemicals are banned from use in the U.K., and no one is entirely sure where they came from.
It remains to be seen how environmental scientists will handle the problem, but if anything’s certain, it’s that researchers need to get a grip on what’s happening to the environment in Suffolk and determine just how widespread this problem might be around the entire globe.