But Can Fish Just Say No

The effect of hormones and other chemicals on fish

06-01-2004 // Roger Di Silvestro

A NEW HAZARD FOR FISH is surfacing in American waters as rivers and streams throughout the nation are becoming laced with a variety of prescription drugs, from antidepressants to birth-control pills, that originate in human wastes, according to recent studies by the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency found evidence of drugs in 80 percent of the 139 streams it tested in 30 states.

With doctors issuing more than 60 million prescriptions yearly for antidepressants, it’s no wonder that a toxicologist in Texas found evidence of Prozac in the brains, livers and muscles of bluegill, a common freshwater fish, caught near a water-treatment plant.

The effect of hormones and other chemicals on fish has not been thoroughly studied, but experts are certain that antidepressants relax fish and other water species just as they do humans. Results can include delayed sexual maturity in fish and delayed metamorphosis in frogs, with potentially fatal results.

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