Concerning chemicals found in fish in the Puget Sound

King County officials identified what they called an “emerging chemical of concern” in the wastewater on Wednesday.

SEATTLE — Do the drugs and products we use in our daily lives affect the wildlife in Puget Sound?

That’s a question environmental toxicologists are working to answer, especially with the endangered Southern resident orcas.

King County officials identified what they called an “emerging chemical of concern” in the wastewater on Wednesday. Local scientists are trying to help local officials prioritize substances that are most harmful to marine life as chemicals enter the sound at an alarming rate.

“I would say that the amount of chemicals in the environment is very worrying,” said Ruth Sofield, professor of environmental toxicology at Western Washington University.

According to researchers like Sofield, Puget Sound is often a dumping ground for hundreds of chemicals.

Sofield said chemicals are getting into wildlife, whether it’s orcas or lower trophic organisms.

Another scientist, James Meador, recently retired from the NOAA Fisheries Agency after 32 years. He says he has identified hundreds of chemicals in the wastewater that flows into the Sound.

“We detected a lot of chemicals in the water and in the fish,” Meador said.

The chemicals are found specifically in fish tissue.

Chemicals considered high priority by researchers include antibiotics, antidepressants and even makeup – like lipstick and mascara.

“Some chemicals in cosmetics can act like estrogen,” says Sofield. “Those chemicals can affect the reproduction of wildlife.”

Sofield said wild animals like chinook salmon. Endangered southern settlement orcas rely on chinooks to supplement their diet.

“If your food isn’t renewable, then you’ll have less food,” says Sofield.

How do they get into the wastewater stream? Experts say chemicals enter through pipes in your home or business.

Many are part of a class of stubborn chemicals known as PFAS, which stands for pro- and polyfluoroalkyl substances but is also known as “forever chemicals”.

“PFAS were conceived in the 1940s and their popularity is due to their ability to repel oil and water, reduce friction, among other characteristics that are really valuable for a commercial product,” said Erika Kinno , said the Director of the Resource Restoration Research and Policy Project at. King County Wastewater Division.

“We call them sticky compounds,” says Meador. “So they want to be in lipids or tissues. So they accumulate in tissues, fish and up the orcas’ food chain.”

To combat this, scientists urge the public not to dump old drugs down the toilet.

“Limit [your] using unnecessary products, like lotion, or taking medication only when needed,” says Sofield.

They are also informing agencies of the necessary technical improvements, as wastewater treatment plants are currently unable to remove chemicals like these.

“We are monitoring, developing and implementing policies, actions and efforts to eliminate PFAS and reduce its impact,” Kinno told the council on Wednesday.

They created a coordinated team to try to solve the problem.

There are currently several laws in Washington – either existing or under consideration in the legislature – that ban chemicals like PFAS in products. Concerning chemicals found in fish in the Puget Sound

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