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  1. ITV Report

High tide: Cocaine fuelled crustaceans in polluted Suffolk rivers

A shrimp Credit: Press Association

Scientists have found drugs including cocaine and ketamine in shrimp collected from rivers in Suffolk.

A study by researchers at King's College London and the University of Suffolk also discovered traces of banned pesticides and pharmaceuticals in samples taken from the county's waterways.

The team collected samples from five catchment areas and 15 sites - and found cocaine in all of them.

In a study published in the journal Environmental International, the researchers said medicines and drugs end up in rivers after use and could cause pose a risk to wildlife.

Leon Baron, from King's College London, said the findings were unexpected for a county like Suffolk.

"Such regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising. We might expect to see these in urban areas such as London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments. The presence of pesticides which have long been banned in the UK also poses a particular challenge as the sources of these remain unclear."

– Dr Leon Barron, King's College London

Concentrations of drugs in the shrimp were low and the scientists said it was not clear whether this was a problem specific to Suffolk or if it could be a more widespread occurrence across the UK.

They called for further research.

"Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution.

"However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK as policy can often be informed by studies such as these."

– Prof Nic Bury, University of Suffolk