Study: Cocaine, Pharmaceuticals and Pesticides Found in River Wildlife

In addition to micro-plastics, our drugs and pesticides are contaminating freshwater shrimp and other river wildlife, new study finds

Freshwater shrimp and other river animals contain pharmaceuticals, pesticides and illicit drugs like cocaine and ketamine, according to a study published in Environment International this week.

A team of researchers from King’s College London collected samples from 20 different sites across the county of Suffolk in and found a wide array of chemicals.

Cocaine was found in all samples tested. Ketamine, pesticides and pharmaceuticals were also widespread in the shrimp collected.

At least one of the pesticides detected — fenuron — has been banned in the UK for decades.

“The presence of pesticides which have long been banned in the UK also poses a particular challenge, as the sources of these remain unclear,” said Dr. Leon Barron from King’s College London.

Pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs end up in rivers because millions of people flush them down the toilet even though septic and sewage systems are not equipped to filter them. Pesticides and herbicides are flushed into streams and rivers every time it rains.

“Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution,” said Professor Nic Bury from the University of Suffolk.

“However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution on wildlife health needs more focus.”