Fish on Drugs

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Photo By Jo Naylor
Recent studies show that antidepressants entering waterways through the waste stream could have negative effects on fish.

Something we failed to take into account: prescription drugs
that make us happy are not magically absorbed inside our bodies by a team of
smiling rainbows. Nope. They eventually make their way to our toilets, where we
flush them away to water treatment centers. There, infectious germs are
eliminated and the water is released into streams, chemicals intact.

The fish on drugs aren’t happy about this. In fact, there is
evidence that our antidepressants are making them anxious. In a recent study
done at the University of Wisconsin?Milwaukee, male fathead minnows swimming in
waters contaminated with fluoxetine (Prozac) became aggressive and homicidal,
reports Brian Bienkowski of the Environmental News Network (June 12,
2013). Exposed to doses as low as one part per billion, males spent more time
hiding under a tile, making them slower to catch prey and less likely to breed.
Increased doses saw females producing fewer eggs and males becoming
increasingly aggressive, sometimes killing females. When minnows are exposed
during development, Bienkowski writes, the drug seems to scramble genetic expression.

Though the university’s study was controlled, levels of
exposure tested were similar to those entering streams via treatment centers.
Still, Bienkowski notes, there is not enough evidence yet to know whether or
how pharmaceuticals are impacting fish in the wild.

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