NEW RESEARCH, led by Lorena da Silva Souza, a doctoral candidate in marine and coastal management at Spain’s University of Cadiz, shows for the first time that ocean acidification threatens to amplify the aggressive effects of cocaine on marine-life.
Costal life contaminated with cocaine as has been found in Brazil’s coast and the Mediterranean Sea near Greece which has proven toxic to shellfish and other sensitive marine animals. Studies have also focused on rivers of eastern England.
The drug endangers species are those which habitat close to shores where Cocaine is highly concentrated. Cocaine reaches the ocean in a variety of ways. Sometimes it falls off ships, but mainly, it’s through people taking the drug. Although the liver metabolizes the bulk of what’s consumed, around one percent persists. This cocaine ends up in the user’s urine, then passes through a wastewater treatment plant where much of it degrades, and ultimately flows out to sea.
The study found that crack and acidity hindered the growth of the larval urchins (species used in the research). Some larval urchins failed to develop all of their legs—defects that da Silva Souza says would prevent the animals from reaching adulthood.
The results form the experiments are just tip of the iceberg. Silva Souza points to the larger matter at hand: “everything that we use in some way goes to the ocean.” Many pharmaceuticals, for instance, pose problems for marine organisms. In a previous study, Silva Souza found that fluoxetine, the antidepressant commonly known as Prozac, damages the DNA of a tropical mussel’s gills and digestive glands.
In addition to pharmaceuticals, other compounds, including perfumes, shampoos, and cosmetics—personal care products with ingredients such as the UV-filtering benzophenone-4 and the antibacterial triclosan—fall under the umbrella of “emerging contaminants.” These chemicals don’t degrade easily in wastewater treatment plants making them especially concerning for marine life.
A reminder that individual action has broader ramifications to the world around us. A world we all need to learn to care for.