Cocaine detected in rivers and freshwater shrimp in the UK

Cocaine is detected in samples of Suffolk's rivers and shrimp.
Cocaine is detected in samples of Suffolk's rivers and shrimp. Photo credit: King's College London; BBC

Scientists made a surprising discovery in the rivers of an English county. Suffolk residents may want to reconsider shrimp for dinner.

Scientists testing Suffolk's rivers for chemical traces detected cocaine in freshwater shrimp.

The University of Suffolk collaborated with researchers at King's College London to test 15 different locations across Suffolk, an English county.

The report noted that cocaine was present across all samples. The study also detected traces of ketamine and alprazolam - an anti-depressant drug often used for recreational means - in the systems of the shrimp.

Specialists believe cocaine is likely to pass through drug users via the sewers and into the rivers.

The discovery was a surprise for researchers. Leon Barron, from King's College London, said: "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."

Professor Nic Bury, from the University of Suffolk, said: "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."

"The impact of 'invisible' chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK," Bury told the BBC.

Researchers acknowledged there was a low chance of the shrimp being physically affected by the contamination.


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