Legend has it that oysters are a great aphrodisiac. Turns out they could have a lot of other medicinal qualities – just not intentionally. According to a recent study of the bivalves in Oregon, some oysters there are jam packed with what’s been called a “cocktail of pharmaceuticals” thanks to polluted waterways.
Researchers with Portland State University, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Geological Survey and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality looked at native Olympia oysters and found contaimination from a mix of drugs and chemicals including pain relievers, antibiotics, mercury and pesticides. According to Oregon Live, even though the research team stated that the “individual concentrations of chemicals” would be considered safe by health officials, environmental and health risks could still exist.
“In addition to potential human health risks, the pollutants may affect the growth and reproduction of the oysters themselves,” said PSU’s Elise Granek in a statement. The findings could have "widespread repercussions since oysters play important ecological roles of filtering water and providing habitat for other estuarine and marine species, like juvenile salmon.”
Looking to curb any immediate fears, Oregon officials released their own statement saying they “appreciate the work” of researchers to “document the low concentrations of environmental contaminants,” but emphasized that under current regulations, the finding represented safe levels. They also pointed out that someone would need to eat tens of thousands of pounds of oyster meat to get the equivalent of “single dose of pharmaceuticals.” Hey, this is America: Depending on the pharmaceutical and your insurance, that might actually be the cheaper option.
But all joking aside, even if the oysters are completely safe to eat, the study hammers home just how much of an impact our actions have on our food chain. And though the idea of an oyster with the therapeutic properties of a pain killer might sound cool, it’s certainly not something we should be striving for.