Foreign Affairs
Rivers polluted with drugs – eels under the effect of cocaine

A number of rivers are so heavily polluted with drugs that eels are falling under effects of cocaine. This in turn is causing problems for European eels to travel some 3,700 miles to their breeding grounds.

Whilst several countries are running awareness campaigns about the effects of drugs on humans, no notice is being taken of the effects of drugs on nature. Research shows that the aquatic environment is ending up contaminated as a result of the water finding its way into rivers.

Scientists say eels are vulnerable, and do not trace cocaine in particular when they are still young.

According to biologist Anna Capaldo, results show a presence of drugs on water surfaces around the world. Capaldo explained that water surfaces in cities with a dense population carry a bigger concentration of drugs.

Capaldo and her colleagues placed eels in water containing a small amount of cocaine, as found in some rivers. The eels were hyperactive, but were as healthy as other eels not subjected to contaminated water. Despite this, the effect on their bodies is another matter. Researchers found that the drug accumulates in the brain, muscles, skin, tissues and hormones of the eels. It is also having an effect on their weight. European eels have to fatten up before travelling to the Sargasso Sea to give birth. The effect of the cocaine is also causing the European eels to delay in starting their voyage. Another effect is that because cocaine weakens the muscles, the eels don’t manage to make it to the Sargasso Sea.


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