Researchers identified the antidepressant substances a highly concentrated drugs building up in the brains of fish like walleye and bass from lakes. These drugs and their metabolized residues in brain tissue of 10 fish species found in the Niagara River.
The findings of antidepressants in fish in the river a serious environmental concerns, says lead scientist Diana Aga, PhD, the Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. These active ingredients from antidepressants, which are coming out from wastewater treatment plants, are accumulating in fish brains, Aga says.
The levels of antidepressants found do not pose a danger to humans who eat the fish, especially in the U.S., most people do not eat organs like the brain. However, scientists are just beginning to understand the consequences.
The research team included other scientists from UB, Ramkhamhaeng University and Khon Kaen University, both in Thailand, and SUNY Buffalo State.
Antidepressants in the water
Developing techniques for detecting contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and endocrine disrupters in the environment. The percentage of Americans taking antidepressants according to the National Center for Health Statistics rised 65 percent 2011-14. Antidepressants stood out as a major problem. These drugs or their metabolites found in the brains of every fish species the scientists studied.
The highest concentration of a single compound was found in a rock bass. It has about 400 nanograms of norsertralinea metabolite of sertraline. The active ingredient in Zoloft per gram of brain tissue. This was in addition to a cocktail of other compounds found in the same fish. Including citalopram, the active ingredient in Celexa, and norfluoxetine, a metabolite of the active ingredient in Prozac and Sarafem.
More than half of the fish brain samples had norsertraline levels of 100 nanograms per gram or higher. In addition, like the rock bass, many of the fish had a medley of antidepressant drugs and metabolites in their brains.
Evidence that antidepressants can change fish behavior generally comes from laboratory studies. This expose the animals to higher concentrations of drugs. The antidepressants that Aga’s team detected in fish brains had accumulated over time. Often reaching concentrations that were several times higher than the levels in the river.
In the brains of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, white bass and walleye, sertraline was found. At levels estimated to be 20 or more times higher than levels in river water. Levels of norsertraline, the drug’s breakdown product. Even greater, reaching concentrations that were often hundreds of times higher than that found in the river.
Scientists have not done enough research yet to understand what amount of antidepressants poses a risk to animals, or how multiple drugs might interact synergistically to influence behavior, Aga says.
The study raises concerns regarding wastewater treatment plants, whose operations have not kept up with the times, says Aga, a member of the UB RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water Institute.
Wastewater treatment only focuses on killing disease-causing bacteria. Antidepressants, are found in the urine of people who use the drugs, are largely ignored, along with other chemicals of concern that have become commonplace, Aga says.