Gill Pills: Prescription Drugs Found in Florida Fish
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — A new study from Florida International University has found that prescription drugs are finding their way into our waterways, and even fish.
When Fort Myers native and PhD candidate Nick Castillo began researching bonefish in the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay, his goal was to find out what was causing the decline in numbers of popular sport fish.
“So we sampled 93 bonefish from Biscayne Bay, all the way south to Key West, so all of the Florida Keys,” Castillo said.
But after testing the fish’s blood, what he found shocked even his professor at Florida International University.
“We tested 104 different types and found 58 different pharmaceuticals. Anxiety meds, allergy meds, heart meds, prostate meds, stomach meds, the list goes on and on. All kinds of drugs that we take every day,” Castillo said.
What he found in the blood of these bonefish was definitive proof that prescription drugs are not filtered out by traditional sewage treatment, which normally treats sewage before the water is returned to the environment. .
“It’s extremely concerning,” said Jennifer Rehage, coastal fisheries ecologist at Florida International University. “A lot of these pharmaceuticals aren’t removed by conventional wastewater treatments, so they’re in our water today, here in Florida, in the United States, and most of the world in fact.”
John Cassani of Calusa Waterkeeper explained how this means the way we treat wastewater needs to be improved to filter out these compounds, and the solutions won’t come cheap.
“Wastewater treatment requirements revolve around just three or four compounds: nitrogen, phosphorus and total suspended solids.” said Cassani.
Worse still, these compounds can be harmful to the fish in which they are found.
“Research on other species, fish, shows that anti-anxiety drugs will make fish less worried about predators, so they are more likely to be eaten, they change their migration patterns, their behaviors…”, said Aaron Adams, of Bonefish Tarpon Trust. .
The study found that each fish whose blood was tested had an average of seven different types of drugs – a cocktail of chemicals that could mean the collapse of some of the world’s most prized sport fisheries.
“If you brought seven different prescriptions to your pharmacist in one day to be filled, your pharmacist would likely freak out about drug interactions,” Adams added.