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Study: Coastal Oregon Waters Slightly Caffeinated

Diane Gilleland

The Northwest is known for its love of coffee. Now evidence of that is showing up in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers have found low levels of caffeine at half a dozen locations on the Oregon Coast.

Caffeine does not occur naturally in the environment in the Pacific Northwest. Marine scientists believe the java jolt gets into seawater through treated sewage and septic runoff.

A Portland State University graduate student collected water samples at 14 coastal beaches and seven nearby river mouths. Samples taken after heavy stormwater runoff contained traces of caffeine.

Study co-author Elise Granek says the find raises more questions than answers, including how caffeine at low levels affects local marine life.  "We are several steps away from being able to tell what the actual impacts are on the organisms," Granek says. "But we do know from this other component of the study that the approximate level of caffeine that we saw at Cape Lookout is enough to cause cellular stress to organisms."

Caffeine has previously been found to be pervasive in Puget Sound and even turned up in relatively pristine Barkley Sound on the outer coast of Vancouver Island.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network