A study carried out by scientists from King’s College London and the University of Suffolk tested the exposure of wildlife like freshwater shrimp to different micropollutants. Researchers took samples of shrimp in 15 locations in a rural area of eastern England and have found cocaine in all samples. Other illicit drugs such as ketamine, pesticides and pharmaceuticals were also widespread in the shrimp who were collected, including several pesticides no longer approved for use in the EU.
Lead author, Dr Thomas Miller from King’s College said: “Although concentrations were low, we were able to identify compounds that might be of concern to the environment and crucially, which might pose a risk to wildlife.”
Professor Nic Bury from the University of Suffolk said: “The impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK as policy can often be informed by studies such as these.” While public concern over environmental health has emphasized microplastics and climate change, there are other areas that merit consideration.
The effect of the pharamceuticals on the shrimp remains unclear. The research showed that several pharmaceuticals have the potential to elicit effects but further investigation surrounding thresholds for effects would be required.
The effect of the research itself on the shrimp is clear though. None of them survived. Quote from the research article:
“Macroinvertebrates were collected by kick sampling into a 250 μm net. […] Macroinvertebrates were sorted on site, excess water removed by tissue paper and immediately frozen on dry ice. Samples were kept at −80 °C prior to processing“.
Millera T.H., Tiong Nga K., Bury S.T. Bury S.C. Bury N.R., Barrona L.P., Biomonitoring of pesticides, pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in a freshwater invertebrate to estimate toxic or effect pressure, Environment International, Volume 129, August 2019, Pages 595-606.