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Birth control, antidepressants found in Seattle-area salmon

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 12:24 PM - Pike Place Fish Market will never quite look the same.

Researchers examining salmon from Puget Sound, Washington have found dozens of drugs within the tissues of juvenile chinook. Tylenol, Aleve, OxyContin, Benadryl, and Prozac are only a few from the cocktail of pharmaceuticals ingested by these fish.

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, say human waste is to blame.

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Estuary waters near the outfalls of sewage-treatment plants and waste sampled at the plants were comprised of 81 different drugs and personal care items, The Seattle Times reports. The levels found were among the highest in the U.S.

Everything from Fungicides to nicotine, caffeine to antiseptics, were uncovered in the study.

"The samples were gathered over two days in September 2014 from Sinclair Inlet off Bremerton and near the mouth of Blair Waterway in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay," The Seattle Times reports.

Jim Meador, the study's lead author and environmental toxicologist at the U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) told the publication that there are two possible reasons for the staggering levels of contamination. It might be an issue of wastewater treatment plants' handling process, or it might be because area locals use a higher amount of the drugs detected.

Meador works at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

"About 45 of the 150 chemicals we examined were found in the fish," Meador told VICE News. "Some of them were at high concentrations. That's the kind of information that raises eyebrows."

Meador and his team examined only two of the 106 wastewater treatment plants located around Puget Sound.

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Certain drugs -- particularly, antidepressants -- could have an impact on the behaviour of fish when ingested.

"If that happens, the fish is toast." Meador told VICE. "It doesn't last long. Predators hunt fish that stray from normal behavior."

The biggest challenge is figuring out how to filter chemicals from waterways. At present, regulatory agencies aren't required to take action like they would for other pollutants.

Meador hopes that research on the impacts of household pharmaceuticals on marine wildlife will help determine a limit to the levels of chemicals in the water, VICE reports.

"Several species of salmon are endangered. In the past we've looked at PCP and DDT. Pharmaceuticals are the next frontier."

Must See: Study says there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

Image courtesy of Puamella, Flickr.

SOURCE: The Seattle Times | VICE News

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