SOURCE: American Chemical Society
SEATTLE — Feb. 29, 2016 — Wastewater flowing into Puget Sound contains some of the nation’s highest concentrations of emerging contaminants, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Washington tested effluent from two wastewater treatment plants for 150 contaminants of emerging concern. They detected 81 of them, including pharmaceuticals such as the antidepressant fluoxetine (also known as Prozac) and the diabetes medication metformin, and antibacterial compounds from soap and industrial chemicals. The researchers also examined juvenile Chinook salmon and Pacific staghorn sculpin, two species of fish native to Puget Sound. They found 42 of the emerging compounds in fish tissues, some of which were at levels that may be high enough to adversely affect their growth, reproduction or behavior.
“There’s also the problem of not knowing how these chemicals act in fish when they are found together as a mixture,” said James Meador, a NOAA Fisheries research scientist and lead author of the study. “Mixtures such as these may result in responses that occur at lower concentrations than single compounds alone.”
Noting that the two wastewater plants they examined discharged a total of 71 million liters per day, the researchers said it is possible that “a substantial load of potentially harmful chemicals are introduced into streams and nearshore marine waters daily.”
If the two facilities sampled in the study are representative of others around Puget Sound, the researchers calculated that nearly 300 pounds of the emerging contaminants likely enter Puget Sound every day.
“When you add it all up, you get millions of gallons of effluent discharging into these estuaries,” Meador said. “This is right in the area where juvenile salmon and other fish are feeding and growing.” You can find the entire release here. Ian: We ‘ve just commissioned the local university test laboratory to perform a life-of-filter test for hormones filtration in the UltraStream. This will be the ONLY test of its type and power in the world. It’s costing us a packet – but it’s worth it.
ScienceToday has just published report on pharmaceuticals seeping into our water. Worth a read. According to the WQA, (luckily) good catalytic carbon like we employ in the UltraStream is sufficient to block them. It’s not the first warning; another report here discussed it on September 9 posting the idea that all new drugs should be formulated to ‘decay’ to a safe standard in contact with water. (Good luck with that one!). Back in ……. another report said both prescription and illegal drugs such as morphine, cocaine and oxycodone have been found in surface waters in Canadian rivers. In Sweden, a report tells us of high levels of the anti-inflammatory substance diclofenac are released from wastewater plants. And in August researchers reported on their study of areas along rural and urban parts of the Alafia River, in Hillsborough County, near Tampa, Florida. They found 17 pharmaceuticals. Another Swedish report talked about a drug that is commonly used to treat anxiety in humans and which regularly finds its way into surface waters through wastewater effluence, shown to reduce mortality rates in fish. (Which seem good but apparently throws out the whole ecosystem they live in!) Yet another one reported anxiety-moderating drugs that reach waterways via wastewater creating fearless and asocial fish that eat more quickly than normal. (The new Piranha in a pond near you?) There’s no doubt of the need for a comprehensive water contaminant removal system going FAR beyond the ‘big box’ carbon filter.
Most of us have heard of birth control pills causing sex changes in native fish. Few of us have pondered whether it’s also happening to us….
We already know Birth control pills and herbicides wreak all kinds of havoc on the sexual development of aquatic life.. and perhaps even our children. Now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has discovered a new nasty. It’s the medicine ‘metformin’, which is taken for Type II diabetes and found in freshwater worldwide, has been shown to cause male fish that can produce eggs. We already know that pharmaceuticals are found in wastewater and surface waters around the world, usually due to incomplete metabolism in humans and subsequent excretion, resulting in discharge into surface waters by wastewater treatment plant effluent. It’s now common. Intersex fish are very common downstream from wastewater treatment plants, and there has been a lot of research looking at the effect of hormones from birth control pills. A study of chemicals prevalent in water samples collected from Lake Michigan, found high levels of metformin. It was the pharmaceutical with the highest levels in the samples – even higher than caffeine. The affected fish were also smaller than normal species. The search revealed that in fact, metformin may be a potential endocrine disruptor. It is also prescribed to women with the hormonal disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Metformin is the most commonly prescribed medicine for Type II diabetes. In 2013, some 70 million prescriptions were dispensed with sales of more than $23 billion. And with diabetes rates skyrocketing – between 1980 and 2008, the number of diabetics worldwide more than doubled from 153 million to 347 million – the gender-bending drug will likely become ever more prevalent.