Shrimp in Rural England Have a Cocaine Problem

iStock.com/Aukid
iStock.com/Aukid

It turns out that becoming shrimp scampi or part of a shrimp cocktail is no longer the only threat looming for these crustaceans. Through no fault of their own, England’s freshwater shrimp are trying to kick a drug habit. A new study has demonstrated that shrimp found in bodies of water in rural Suffolk are consistently testing positive for cocaine as well as other controlled or prohibited substances.

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Suffolk published the paper in the journal Environment International after taking samples from 15 different locations across five river catchments in Suffolk. Drugs like cocaine and ketamine were found in the shrimp, along with pesticides and other micropollutants. Researchers also found lidocaine, a local anesthetic used to “cut” cocaine.

The levels are low, researchers say, but potential damage to these tiny Tony Montanas will need to be assessed with further study. This research does raise the question of how shrimp are testing positive for illegal drugs in the first place. When a human ingests drugs, their urine can contain trace metabolites that enter the wastewater system. One theory is that nearby wastewater treatment plants have discharged this type of contaminated waste into the Suffolk's rivers, though their filtration processes should prevent pharmaceuticals or their metabolites from getting through. It’s possible that sewer overflow or improper system connections are to blame.

While the shrimp don’t appear to be affected, that hasn't been true of all animals. In the UK, a study of the effects of cocaine in eels demonstrated that it can accumulate in their brains, muscles, skin, and gills, causing swelling and hormone disruption that could affect their migrations and reproductive processes. Water contaminated with antidepressants can also influence behavior. Crabs exposed to Prozac, for example, became more aggressive.

[h/t BBC]

UK Burger King Restaurants Will Stop Giving Plastic Toys With Kids' Meals

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Fast food companies don't have a reputation for being eco-friendly, but through small changes made in recent years, some of the biggest names in the industry are working to reduce their environmental impact. Just a few weeks after introducing the meat-free Impossible Whopper, Burger King announced a new policy for its United Kingdom locations. As CNN reports, UK restaurants will no long include plastic toys with kids' meals.

The change comes after two sisters from the UK started a petition on Change.org calling on McDonald's and Burger King to stop distributing plastic toys with kids' meals. Ella and and Caitlin McEwan, who were 9 and 7 respectively when the petition launched this summer, wrote, “children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea." They went on to say: "It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all." Their online petition has received more than 530,000 signatures.

By cutting plastic from kids' meals, Burger King estimates it will avoid wasting 350 tons of single-use plastic a year. The chain has also installed containers in its UK stores for collecting old plastic toys from customers, so the material can be recycled to make playgrounds. The UK represents just a fraction of Burger King's market, but according to the company, non-biodegradable plastic toys will be phased out of all locations by 2025.

McDonald's has had a different response to the McEwan sister's petition. Instead of doing away with plastic toys completely, UK restaurants will give customers the option to swap toys for fruit with their Happy Meals later this year, and then allow them to opt for books instead for a period in early 2020. Meanwhile, in Canada and Germany, some McDonald's restaurants are experimenting with going totally plastic-free. The more sustainable restaurants feature paper straws, waffle cone condiment cups, and burger wrappers made from grass.

[h/t CNN]

Fall Foliage Is Running Late This Year

Free art director/iStock via Getty Images
Free art director/iStock via Getty Images

The August arrival of the pumpkin spice latte might have you feeling like fall is in full swing already, but plants aren’t quite so impressionable. According to Travel + Leisure, the best fall foliage could be coming a little later than usual this year.

Historically, the vibrant transformation starts to sweep through northern regions of the Rocky Mountains, Minnesota, and New England in mid-September, and reaches its peak by the end of the month. Other areas, including the Appalachians and Midwest states, don’t see the brightest autumn leaves until early or mid-October. The Weather Channel reports that this year, however, the forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts unseasonably warm temperatures for the next two weeks, which could impede the color-changing process.

Warm temperatures aren’t necessarily bad for fall foliage, as long as they occur during the day and are offset by cool nights. Since meteorologists don’t expect the overnight temperatures to drop off yet, plants will likely continue producing enough chlorophyll to keep their leaves green in the coming days.

The good news is that this year’s fall foliage should only be about a week late, and meteorologist David Epstein thinks that when leaves do start to change color, we’re in for an especially beautiful treat. If the current weather forecast holds, he told Boston.com, we'll "see a longer season than last year, we’d see a more vibrant season than last year, and it would come on a little earlier than last year, which was so late.”

Though poor weather conditions like early snow, heavy rain, drought, or strong winds can cause leaves to fall prematurely, most trees right now are in a good position to deliver a brilliant display of color after a healthy, rain-filled summer.

Find out when you’ll experience peak fall foliage in your area with this interactive map.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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