Fish on a cock­tail of drugs

Drug- laced waste­water ends up in wa­ter­ways and even­tu­ally, in fish.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH - By LYNDA V. MAPES

PUGET Sound salmon are on drugs – Prozac, Advil, Be­nadryl, Lip­i­tor, even co­caine. Those drugs and dozens of oth­ers are show­ing up in the tis­sues of ju­ve­nile chi­nook, re­searchers have found, thanks to tainted waste­water dis­charge.

The es­tu­ary wa­ters off Seat­tle, near the out­falls of sewage treat­ment plants, and ef­flu­ent sam­pled at the plants, were cock­tails of 81 drugs and per­sonal- care prod­ucts, with lev­els de­tected among the high­est in the United States.

The medicine chest of com­mon drugs also in­cluded Flonase Flonase, Aleve and Tylenol.Tyleno Paxil, Val­ium and Zoloft. Taga­met, OxyCon­tin andd Dar­von. Nico­tine and ca af­feine. Fungi­cides, an­ti­sep­tics anda an­ti­co­ag­u­lants. And Cipr ro and other an­tibi­otics ga­lore e.

Why are the lev­els s o high? It could be be­cau use peo­ple here use more ofo the drugs de­tected, or it couldd be re­lated to the pro­cesses ofo waste­water treat­ment pla ants, said Jim Meador, an envi iron­men­tal tox­i­col­o­gist at th he Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra ation’s Northwest Fish­eries Scien nce Cen­tre in Seat­tle and lead au­thor on a pa­per pub­lished in the jour­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­lu­tion.

“The con­cen­tra­tions in ef­flu­ent were higher than we ex­pected,” Meador said. “We an­a­lysed sam­ples for 150 com­pounds and we had 61% of them de­tected in ef­flu­ent. So we know th­ese are go­ing into the es­tu­ar­ies.”

The chem­i­cals turned up in both the wa­ter and the tis­sues of mi­gra­tory ju­ve­nile chi­nook salmon and res­i­dent staghorn sculpin. If any­thing, the study prob­a­bly un­der- re­ports the amount of drugs in the wa­ter closer to out­fall pipes, or in deeper wa­ter, re­searchers found. Even fish tested in the Nisqually es­tu­ary, which re­ceives no di­rect mu­nic­i­pal treat­ment plant dis­charge, tested pos­i­tive for an al­pha­bet soup of chem­i­cals in sup­pos­edly pris­tine wa­ters.

Meador was sur­prised that lev­els in many cases were higher than in many of the 50 largest waste­water treat­ment plants around the na­tion. The find­ings are of con­cern be­cause most of the chem­i­cals de­tected are not mon­i­tored or reg­u­lated in waste­water, and there is lit­tle or no es­tab­lished sci­ence on the en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­i­c­ity for the vast ma­jor­ity of the com­pounds de­tected.

Meador said he doubted there would be ef­fects from the chem­i­cals on hu­man health, be­cause peo­ple don’t eat sculpin or ju­ve­nile chi­nook, and lev­els are prob­a­bly too low in the wa­ter to be ac­tive in hu­mans. But one of the rea­sons the waste­water pol­lu­tants stud­ied as a class are called “chem­i­cals of emerg­ing con­cern” is be­cause so lit­tle is known about them.

“You have to won­der what it is do­ing to the fish,” Meador said. His ear­lier work has shown that ju­ve­nile chi­nook salmon mi­grat­ing through con­tam­i­nated es­tu­ar­ies in Puget Sound die at twice the rate of fish else­where.

The drugs de­tected in the study could be part of the rea­son, as they have the po­ten­tial to af­fect fish growth, be­hav­iour, re­pro­duc­tion, im­mune func­tion and an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance. The drugs se­lected for test­ing were cho­sen on the ba­sis of their wide­spread use by peo­ple, the like­li­hood of their con­tin­ued use and the po­ten­tial for higher lev­els of con­tam­i­na­tion in the fu­ture as the hu­man pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to grow.

The re­sults rep­re­sent only a snap­shot, and lev­els could be higher or lower, sea­son­ally, de­pend­ing on peo­ple’s use of drugs and vol­umes of treat­ment plant dis­charge. For in­stance, lev­els of DEET ( an in­sect re­pel­lent) and an­ti­his­tamines are prob­a­bly even higher in sum­mer.

The Puget Sound area con­tains 106 pub­licly owned waste­water treat­ment plants that dis­charge to lo­cal wa­ters. The amount of drugs and chem­i­cals from all plants into Puget Sound could be as much as 44,000kg ev­ery year, the study found. Un­ex­plored were the pres­ence and ef­fect of drugs in preda­tors that eat the fish, and in other con­tam­i­nated or­gan­isms that the fish eat, such as al­gae or in­ver­te­brates.

Some treat­ment plants are ef­fec­tive in re­mov­ing some drugs in waste­water, but many drugs are re­cal­ci­trant and re­main. Seizure drugs, for in­stance, are very hard to re­move, and ibupro­fen lev­els are knocked down – but not out – dur­ing treat­ment, said Betsy Cooper, per­mit ad­min­is­tra­tor for King County’s Waste­water Treat­ment Divi­sion.

“You have treat­ment do­ing its best to re­move th­ese, chem­i­cally and bi­o­log­i­cally, but it’s not just the treat­ment qual­ity, it’s also the amount that we use day to day and our as­sump­tion that it just goes away,” Cooper said. “But not ev­ery­thing goes away.” – The Seat­tle Times/ Tribune News Ser­vice

Filled with meds:

drug residues found in in­ad­e­quately treated sewage are be­ing ab­sorbed by ju­ve­nile chi­nook salmon in Puget sound, seat­tle. — TNs

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