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Antidepressants make for sad fish

By Everett & Associates on Sep 22, 2012 at 12:30 PM in Environmental Issues

According to a recent study reported at a meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, certain fish are being exposed to trace amounts of antidepressant drugs in waterways and they may be getting too relaxed for their own good.

Tons of drugs are released to the environment each year, either when pills are flushed down the toilet or when drug byproducts are excreted by patients. Conventional sewage treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals, so effluent released into rivers by these plants can carry a dilute but diverse array of drug residues.

In this study, researchers from Minnesota and Ohio documented that fish exposed as embryos or hatchlings to trace concentrations of the antidepressant, Effexor, didn’t react as quickly as normal to stimuli signaling a possible predator. This laid-back reaction could prove to be a “death sentence,” she observes.

This is just one reason many environmental scientists (including us at LEA) believe trace levels of pharmaceuticals is an important class of emerging contaminants that must be addressed in protecting the quality of our water for both human health and protection of the environment.