Antidepressants and SSRIs in the water are causing profound intergenerational issues in fish, according to multiple reports.

Millions of fish in various water systems throughout the US are affected across at least three generations due to common pharmaceutical prescriptions winding up contaminating their natural habitats.

In addition to SSRIs, other endocrine disrupting chemicals such as glyphosate and uranium are present in US water systems.

The circadian rhythms, cortisol response, hunting abilities, and brain chemistry of fish are believed to be altered due to the levels of antidepressants in the water.

Studies have been carried out on three different species of fish — zebrafish, mosquitofish, and white suckers. All three were shown to have experienced neurological and social changes due to SSRIs.

One report found: “The most frequently detected antidepressants in wastewater and stream water were venlafaxine, bupropion, and citalopram. In contrast, the most frequently detected antidepressants in fish brains were fluoxetine, norfluoxetine (a transformation product of fluoxetine), sertraline, and norsertraline (a transformation product of sertraline).”

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SSRI consumption rates have exploded in the USA over the past few years.

And this is having a negative effect in fish as natural responses are being blunted.

According to The Scientist:

“The researchers exposed embryos of zebrafish (Danio rerio) to fluoxetine for six days, then investigated the physiology and behavior of those fish and three subsequent generations of their offspring. In zebrafish, levels of the hormone cortisol normally increase in response to a stressful event, such as when they’re handled in a net. But the researchers observed that fish exposed to fluoxetine—at concentrations within the range found in umbilical cord blood—as embryos had blunted levels of cortisol, both during rest and in the presence of a stressor. The animals also didn’t explore their environments as much their unexposed peers. These kinds of “exploratory behaviors,” Trudeau says, are important for survival strategies such as escaping from predators and finding food.

“They then injected the drug-treated fish with cortisol, and found that the fish behaved normally after the injection. This confirmed that the behavioral alterations were caused by the changes in cortisol production.”

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The results of these findings indicate that the survival abilities of zebrafish are lessened due to the curtailment of a natural response to stimuli. Cortisol — the stress hormone — is extremely important in a state of natural and ensures the survival of an animal. In humans, living in a post-industrial world, cortisol is more of a burden than a boon.

Another study found that eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) foraged in groups, they found antidepressants in our waste play havoc with the animals’ social interactions in ways we’d never noticed in studies of individual fish.”

The results are significant because they suggest that behavioural tests in social isolation may not accurately predict the environmental risk of chemical pollutants for group-living species,” says biologist Jake Martin.

Fluoxetine exposure disrupted the relationship between the total number of prey consumed and standard deviation in group weight,” says behavioural ecologist, Bob Wang.

Despite these findings, scientists were not able to gauge whether weight of the fish or levels of exposure could predict the aggressiveness of the fish.

However, these environmental pollutants may have a deep impact on the fish’s ecology as both social interactions and food consumption were affected.

“Our results suggest that social context may be an important, but underappreciated, factor influencing the ecological impacts of chemical pollutants on wildlife,” Martin added.

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One study, investigating the effect of SSRIs on fish’s circadian rhythms found:

“Since these compounds act on neuroendocrine-mediated pathways in vertebrates, the present study explored how exposure to two representative SSRIs (fluoxetine and sertraline) and an SNRI (venlafaxine) affect circadian rhythms in fish. Male mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) were exposed to 1, 10 and 100μg/L concentrations of these compounds individually and when present as a full mixture, for a period of one week.

Neither fluoxetine nor sertraline had an impact on diurnal activity patterns when fish were exposed to these compounds alone at any concentration, whereas venlafaxine significantly disrupted normal circadian rhythmicity but only at 100μg/L. When fish were exposed to the full mixture, significantly altered diurnal activity patterns were rapidly observed at nominal concentrations of 1 and 100μg/L, but there was no effect at 10μg/L. This sort of non-monotonic dose relationship is not altogether unusual for fish exposed to antidepressants, but it poses a problem when attempting to evaluate potential risks to the aquatic environment.”

These studies show how inadequate water filtration and waste management not only alters other ecosystems, but questions should be asked how they influence human interactions.

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