University at Buffalo study says fish in the Niagara River are on anti-depressants

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) –  A new study from University at Buffalo researchers says fish living in the Niagara River are on anti-depressants.  Now, scientists are concerned about the health of these species as wastewater treatment plants fail to remove drugs.

Dr. Diana Aga is the lead scientist with, the Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. She is studying fish from the Niagara River. She’s found human antidepressants and remnants of the drugs are building up in the fishes’ brains.

She said, “It was unexpected, what we found.”

The drugs, like Zoloft and Prozac, that have seen a sharp spike in prescriptions in this country were found in 10 fish species.

Dr. Aga says these drugs are found in human urine and are not stripped out by wastewater treatment plants.

She said, “When humans take these drugs, not all of it metabolizes in the body. Some of them are actually excreted in urine and higher portions, so it goes to the wastewater treatment plants and whatever is happening there, is not geared towards breaking down these compounds.”

But she says it’s not toxic to humans, as people don’t normally eat fish brains. But, it could potentially be harmful to the fish themselves. She said, “Because it’s fairly new,  we don’t know really what’s going to happen to the fish at this level for longer periods of time.”

The Niagara River, which carries water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario is already under stress, with untreated wastewater released into the river over the summer.

She said, “For a long time now, the wastewater treatment plants have recognized the presence of pharmaceuticals in wastewater.”

People do drink that surface water,  but that water is treated and not toxic. Next, Dr. Aga will start a new study to track behavioral changes in the fish, to try and see whether these drugs are harmful to the species.

The research team included other scientists from UB, Ramkhamhaeng University and Khon Kaen University, both in Thailand, and SUNY Buffalo State. Alicia Pérez-Fuentetaja from SUNY Buffalo State was a co-author of the study.

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