America’s Opioid Usage Seeps into the Environment

Opioids detected in mussels found on the coast of the Pacific Northwest correlate to high usage in nearby cities.

Shellfish in Washington State have tested positive for the prescription opioid, oxycodone, a powerful painkiller. Scientists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife found traces of the painkiller in the tissues of native bay mussels in Puget Sound near Seattle. The effects of the drug on this common mollusk are yet unknown.

If you took prescription opioids during pregnancy and you are now raising a child
with special needs, contact the opioid lawyers at Waters Kraus & Paul at 800.226.9880.

Mussels are filter feeders. This means that they process large volumes of water to obtain their food.  On average, a mussel filters roughly enough water to fill a bathtub each day. As a result of this large volume of filtration, mussels have been used to measure pollution levels in waters. The mussels testing positive for the opioids have been found near highly urbanized areas.

Where did the Opioids Come From?

Experts believe the mussels are feeding on contaminants from human sewage that cannot be completely filtered by wastewater treatment plants. The plants receive the water that comes from toilets, hospitals, and homes.

One path by which the drugs end up in the water is through urine. Excess medication that cannot be absorbed by the body is excreted through urine, which is then flushed into the wastewater system. The second is the result of people flushing their unused drugs down the toilet. In turn, the presence of oxycodone in the mussels reflects the large numbers of people in the areas surrounding the Puget Sound who are taking the medication.

Opioids’ Effects are Far-Reaching

Concern continues to grow as the use of prescription opioids, such as OxyContin, Norco, Vicodin, and Fentanyl, continues to increase. Along with elevated usage come increased side effects. Prescription opioids have been linked to birth defects, like heart defects and brain damage, even when the expecting mother has taken the drug as prescribed under a physician’s care. Another costly side effect of the opioid epidemic is the strain put on public services managing the fallout. The opioid crisis cost the U.S. economy $78.5 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A quarter of which was paid by taxpayers through increased public costs for health care, criminal justice, and treatment.

How Can Waters Kraus & Paul Help?

Waters Kraus & Paul is a mid-sized plaintiffs’ opioid law firm that advocates for stronger consumer protection laws. Waters Kraus & Paul also uses litigation to hold corporations responsible for the injuries their products cause. We represent families dealing with opioid-related birth defects and municipalities struggling to meet the demands of their communities. If you need an opioid lawyer, email us or call our attorneys at 800.226.9880.

What are my chances?

That’s the first question everyone asks. The truth is it’s impossible to know. But we can tell you this. Waters Kraus & Paul has what it takes to fight against big corporate interests and win. That’s why we’ve taken more mesothelioma trials to verdict than any other firm. And that’s why we’ve recovered more than $1.3 billion for clients like you. Do you think you have a case? Contact us now to speak with an attorney.

Call 800.226.9880