Something fishy going on… Antidepressants contaminating rivers make perch antisocial
Science Editor, Boston
Thursday 14 February 2013
Drugs used to treat anxiety and depression are contaminating rivers and streams where they are building up in concentrations that can affect the behaviour of wild freshwater fish, scientists have found.
Significant amounts of a benzodiazepine drug called Oxazepam, which is widely used to treat anxiety, are being flushed into rivers from sewage works. The concentrations are too low to be considered a health risk to humans but a study has shown they can still affect fish.
Benzodiazepines, such as Valium, are one of the most widely prescribed groups of drugs. They can be excreted from the body intact and persist in the treated effluent water released from sewage works into rivers, scientists said.
A study carried out in Sweden found that the relatively low concentrations of benzodiazepines commonly found in rivers throughout Europe, including Britain, can significantly affect the behaviour of the European perch.
The scientists found that perch exposed to extremely small concentrations of Oxazepam, as low as a fraction of a microgram per litre of water, were less sociable, bolder and ate faster than fish that were not exposed to the drug.
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