With a new study showing that we are leaching more prescription drugs into our drinking water than previously thought, scientists are getting concerned:
We know how the drugs get there: Our bodies release them when we urinate or flush old drugs down the toilet. And it’s well known by now that pharmaceuticals are affecting fish, frogs and lobsters—small amounts of estrogen cause male fish to develop eggs, for instance…
So far, there have not been any studies showing effects on human health. It is particularly difficult to study the effects on the most vulnerable populations: pregnant women and the elderly. But [Shane] Snyder [co-director at the Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants] is frustrated that nothing has been done about the drugs that have already been found to be definitely problematic for aquatic life. “Look at estrogen and endocrine disruptors—here’s a case where there is compelling evidence that it has an effect on aquatic life and still nothing has been done,” said Snyder. Snyder said it would not be that difficult to figure out how to remove the compounds from the water, but it might be costly and the byproducts might be worse than the original contaminants.
Meanwhile, another study suggests that rising levels of oceanic acidity are also putting a strain on fish:
Scientists from UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Canada’s MacEwan University recently published this surprising finding in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science. But what does it mean for fish to be anxious? According to this study, all it takes is observing how much time the fish choose to spend in dark versus light areas of their habitats… Previous studies have shown that fish dosed with anxiety-inducing drugs will, instead of moving continuously around their tanks, prefer to dwell in the dark spots. Turns out, putting fish in slightly more acidic water is just like administering an anxiety-inducing drug.