When most people think of caffeine they think coffee or soda and long nights at work. But, to researcher Elise Granek, it poses a major threat to the ecology of Oregon’s coastal ecosystem.
Caffeine deposits in the ocean can be attributed to sewage effluent. Effluents have long been known to impact the receiving environment. As suspected, where effluents were treated, there was a lower level of marine caffeine–areas of high population are not the problem because their sewage is treated before being dumped. Meanwhile, more rural methods of dealing with sewage seem to be the cause of this problem. Septic tanks do not seem to be doing a sufficient job at retaining pollutants, such as caffeine, because of the increase in contamination around these sites along with areas of direct dumping.
The question that this finding raises is whether there are other toxins leaking and polluting this coastal environment. Caffeine is usually an indicator of more harsh toxins leaking into an environment. Though the level of caffeine is in no way lethal to aquatic life, it is a chemical that is not usually found in marine environments and causes “cellular stress”. As levels of stress continue, there are evident changes in lifestyle, including reproduction. This can cause some long-term issues within populations and communities, making this a locally serious environmental issue.