A total of 81 different personal care products and drugs have been found in salmon hauls in the Puget Sound, Seattle. Salmon is traditionally viewed as a healthy food due to the proteins, fatty acids, and Omega-3s in it. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case for salmon caught in Puget Sound.
According to a study on environmental pollution (1), the products found in the salmon’s flesh included things such as Advil, Prozac, Lipitor, Benadryl, Flonase, Aleve, Tylenol, Paxil, Valium, Zoloft, Tagamet, OxyContin, Darvon, Nicotine, caffeine, Fungicides, antiseptics, anticoagulants, as well as plenty of antibiotics and even cocaine. It’s unclear why exactly the quantities are so high but according to the Seattle Times, it’s either because people in the area use such drugs more than the average person or because wastewater plants can’t adequately remove the chemicals during treatment (2). Leaky septic tanks are also believed to contribute to the problem as high fecal coliform counts have been detected.
Jim Meador, an environmental toxicologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle (3) said that “The concentrations in effluent were higher than we expected. We analyzed samples for 150 compounds and we had 61 percent of them detected in effluent. So we know these are going into the estuaries.”
The study included samples from both the migratory juvenile chinook salmon and the resident staghorn sculpin. Not only did both types of salmon include these 81 different chemicals but traces of them were found in the water as well. The researchers also mention that the study likely underrepresents the amount of chemicals in the water as they are likely much higher near outfall pipes or in deeper waters.
All this is a concern not only for the people who eat salmon but for the wildlife itself. Jim Meador’s other work in the area has shown that chinook salmon that migrates through the Puget Sound dies at a rate that’s twice that of salmon in other areas. Unfortunately, things don’t look like they are about to change as 97,000 pounds of drugs are said to be dumped in the Puget Sound every year according to studies (4).