The Loh Down On Science

The Caffeine Coast

What makes Portlandia so Portlandian? Is it ... the water?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down On Science.

Meet Portland State University graduate student Zoe Rodriguez de Rey. Rodriguez de Rey decided that her own Oregon Trail would involve testing the state’s waters for caffeine.

It was an interesting quest, as caffeine is one of the most widely consumed drugs in the world. It’s found in foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals ... and, apparently, now, the ocean. Given that caffeine physiologically affects humans, scientists worry that it affects marine life, too.

Rodriguez de Rey sampled 14 locations along the coast. Surprisingly, areas near water treatment plants, urban centers, and rivers were not major culprits for caffeinated pollution. Quite the opposite. The highest caffeine levels were found in rural places like the Cape Lookout and Carl Washburn State Parks.

Why?

Rodriguez de Rey suspects storm runoff near the septic tanks of fragrant state park restrooms is at least partially responsible.

And I suspect, with Oregon’s coastal marine life soaking up those lattes, crabbing could be a much more vigorous sport.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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