Cocaine, ketamine, prescription drugs and banned pesticides have been found in river wildlife in rural of England.

Researchers tested aquatic animals’ exposure and found traces of a wide array of chemicals – including illegal drugs.

They examined 15 sites across Suffolk and are now calling for more research across the UK to find out whether its is a national issue or one concentrated in the county.

The research was carried out by King’s College London.

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Illegal drugs were found in river wildlife in rural England

Dr Leon Barron said: “Such regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising.

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“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.”

Micropollutants – chemicals found at exceptionally low levels – were found in wildlife such as the freshwater shrimp.

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Kingfisher rising from the water in Suffolk, England
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Kingfisher rising from the water in Suffolk, England

The study’s lead author, Dr Thomas Miller, said: “Although concentrations were low, we were able to identify compounds that might be of concern to the environment and crucially, which might pose a risk to wildlife.

“As part of our ongoing work, we found that the most frequently detected compounds were illicit drugs, including cocaine and ketamine and a banned pesticide, fenuron. Although for many of these, the potential for any effect is likely to be low.”

In January two separate studies found that cocaine from drug users’ urine was turning up in samples from the Thames as it flows through London; and that even small doses can cause hyperactivity in eels.