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Fish In The Great Lakes Are On Antidepressants

It seems like fish are joining the crisis of bingeing on pills. Human antidepressants were found in several fish species living in the Great Lakes region, causing alarm.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo found traces of active ingredients from antidepressant medications such as Zoloft and Prozac in the brains of bowfin, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rudd, rock bass, white bass, white perch, walleye, steelhead and yellow perch fish in the Niagara River, US News and World Report states. The river links Lake Erie with Lake Ontario.

Diana Aga, lead author on the study, said, “These active ingredients from antidepressants, which are coming out from wastewater treatment plants, are accumulating in fish brains.” It’s troubling for humans and the environment alike. She added, “It is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned.” The highest accumulation of chemicals was found in the brains of fish, followed by the liver, muscle and gonads.

The fish are getting exposed to these chemicals via the contamination of their natural habitat. Wastewater from treatment plants in the area flow through the river. While these factories generally focus on killing disease-causing bacteria and are removing solid waste, antidepressants in the urine of people are overlooked and not removed from the wastewater. The Niagara River receives wastewater from treatment plants located along its shores and on Lake Erie.

The number of Americans taking antidepressants has shot up by 65% between 1999 and 2002 and from 2011 to 2014, reports the National Center for Health Statistics.

The buildup of these chemicals in fish is not a threat to humans, but it poses a danger to the environment. These antidepressants could modify a fish’s feeding behavior and survival instinct, upsetting the “delicate balance between species that helps to keep the ecosystem stable,” according to Randolph Singh, co-author on the study.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.


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