Friday, October 5, 2012

Caffeine: Miracle Drug For Some, Potential Threat To Others

Attention caffeine lovers: your morning miracle may have adverse effects on marine life. Experts say that caffeine is entering aquatic ecosystems, yet the consequences remain unknown. The Pacific Northwest in particular has a rather large coffee culture, perhaps explaining the notable caffeine level in the Oregon coastal waters.

Who should be held responsible for this lack of careful regulation? Marine Ecologist Elise Granek proposed that on-site waste disposal systems (i.e. septic systems) “frequently [do not have] much monitoring going on.” This seems to be a bigger problem for large metropolitan areas such as the Boston Harbor, whose waste disposal is far greater (and thus harder to monitor) than the smaller cities in Oregon. As such a wide-spread compound, caffeine itself may be an indicator of other pollutants, contributing to what Hydrologist Dana Kolpin referred to as a “soup of contaminants.” Kolpin questioned whether this mixture of compounds could threaten human health in addition to the suspected environmental consequences. 
Despite the unknown effects as a whole, there is in fact some evidence to support the hypothesis that caffeine is hazardous to marine life. Lab experiments revealed that intertidal mussels under stress began to produce proteins in response to high concentrations. It is important to keep a close eye on these levels and observe how it will affect growth and reproduction of certain species. Caffeine may not be top on the list of pollutants affecting natural waters, but it is certainly an indication of human waste that could have an impact down the line. Perhaps this arising issue may be more of a wake-up call than your morning cup of coffee. 

No comments: