Traces Of Anxiety Drugs May Make Fish Act Funny

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“The water is likely to be considerably cleaner upstream and downstream from the sewage plant where the Swedish perch were captured.

Adding more uncertainty in this case: Benzodiazepines have been used for decades in Sweden, so they have no doubt been in this aquatic ecosystem for many years.

“These fish may have adapted to that,” Schlenk says.

Scientists now realize that low levels of pharmaceuticals have spread through the environment. For instance, Schlenk has found a Valium-like drug in the hornyhead turbot, a fish that lives on the seafloor off the California coast. Other lab studies have shown that human drugs can affect the behavior of striped bass and other species.

These drug traces don’t pose an obvious threat to people, who might drink water from streams or eat the fish that live in them.

“The presence of pharmaceuticals in surface waters — or even the residues that accumulate in edible in fish and shellfish — are much lower than what you might need to gain a therapeutic dose,” says Bryan Brooks of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

But, he cautions, that isn’t necessarily the case in the developing world.”

“Some of the observations in India, for example, downstream of manufacturing facilities, are among the highest concentrations of pharmaceuticals reported in the environment,” he says. “So the developing world really deserves some additional attention.”

Read more: NPR

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