Residual Medication Found in Fish across US


Though it should come as no surprise, fish caught near the wastewater treatment plants of five major US cities were found with residual pharmaceuticals in them. Researchers found medicines such as those used to treat bipolar disorder, depression, allergies, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol in the tissue of fish. The cities that were tested are Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Orlando, Florida.

Though researchers involved in the study say someone would have to eat thousands of fish to get a therapeutic dose, the ramifications go far beyond someone simply ingesting a drug they don’t need. For one, the reason the fish have these meds in them in the first place is that the rivers they swim in are contaminated with drugs for many different conditions. And researchers have determined that even though the drugs are extremely diluted, the constant exposure of marine life and amphibians to them poses a real threat to those species.

However, the pharmaceuticals got into the water because of the way they are excreted from the human body. As an unmetabolized substance, the unused portion of the pharmaceuticals then gets flushed and winds up in the rivers. There are two things that many take issue with here: one is the overabundance of prescriptions people are taking, and the way the population is perhaps overmedicated. The other is the fact that it isn’t only fish that wind up drinking the river water. We all drink it eventually. As a result, we all probably have residual pharmaceuticals in our bodies. And, unlike vitamins, most of these medicines are things most of us can do without.

It was previously determined that millions of Americans are drinking water with pharmaceuticals in them. However, beyond this “ick factor,” one of the concerns with this is that the more people take these drugs, inadvertently or not, the more likely things like bacteria and viruses will develop resistance. This may have greater significance in the future as different strains of the flu, tuberculosis, and other things perhaps make their way into dense urban centers with no way to counter them.

Or maybe this is just being alarmist, and major pharmaceutical companies will simply find new drugs to be shoved down our throats, which will then wind up in the waterways of America. Then the cycle will simply continue and we’ll be no better or worse for it.