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Surprised scientists find cocaine in river-dwelling shrimp

It's like Scarface, but set in UK rivers.


A new study discusses the discovery of cocaine in freshwater shrimp in the UK.

King's College London

Animals reflect their environments, the good and the bad. 

Researchers from King's College London and the University of Suffolk in the UK dipped into a series of rivers in the county of Suffolk, snagged some of the local wildlife and checked to see what extracurricular chemicals were coursing through their systems. Cocaine was a biggie in the freshwater shrimp Gammarus pulex.

"Surprisingly, cocaine was found in all samples tested, and other illicit drugs such as ketamine, pesticides and pharmaceuticals were also widespread in the shrimp that were collected," King's College said in a release.

The team published a study on the findings on Wednesday in the journal Environment International.   

Concentrations of these substances were low, but the scientists also found traces of fenuron, a banned pesticide. The source of the pesticide is unclear. 

The cocaine found in the shrimp is also a bit of a mystery considering the locations of the samples. "We might expect to see these in urban areas such as London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments," said study co-author Leon Barron, a forensic science lecturer at King's College London.

The researchers are curious if the cocaine is an issue unique to Suffolk, or if it might also occur in other areas. That's a question that will require further research. 

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