60-Second Science

Pharmed Fish

A study presented at an American Chemical Society meeting reveals that fish from sites in various parts of the country tested positive for drugs and personal care product chemicals that wind up in the water supply. Adam Hinterthuer reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Eating fish can be good medicine. And, according to the U.S. EPA and researchers from Baylor University, fish all over the country are literally stuffed to the gills with medicine. The findings are part of a pilot study testing for pharmaceuticals and personal care products in our nation’s waterways. The results were presented in a March 25th meeting of the American Chemical Society.

According to the report, fish contain a medicine cabinet’s-worth of products—from antihistamines to antidepressants and, discovered for the first time in fish, a popular cholesterol medication. In all, 24 pharmaceuticals and 12 cosmetic chemicals were tested for in fish from rivers near Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Orlando and West Chester, Pennsylvania. While the amount and type of drugs varied, chemical residue from seven pharmaceuticals and two kinds of personal care products was found in all five sites. In contrast, not a single fish in the control site of New Mexico’s Gila River Wilderness Area tested positive.

The researchers say little is known about what such drug cocktails mean for the health of fish, not to mention the people who eat them. But it sure makes catch and release sound like the way to go.

—Adam Hinterthuer 

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