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Fish Like Worms, Not Drugs

Bob Anderson, JavaBird

Julia Weinand, Editor

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What do you do with leftover prescription medication? In many cases, patients flush them down the drain.

In Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, McMaster University completed a study on how pharmaceuticals in the water effected aquatic ecosystems.

Researchers at the university compared fish downstream of Dundas Wastewater Treatment Plant to those in a nearby freshwater pond. Because of the pollutants, fish had to use 30% more energy to sustain themselves.

“That’s a difference in metabolic rate that we would have if we started walking several extra hours a day,” said Graham Scott, according the university’s write-up in Science Daily.

Increased metabolic rate occurs when fighting disease, performing more strenuous activities, or undergoing other bodily stresses. Instead of avoiding predators or searching for food, fish in the polluted water must spend more energy filtering unwanted drugs from their bodies, according to lab report in Science Daily. This threatens the survival rates of the fish, and therefore, the population as a whole.

Researchers involved could tell the increased metabolism was due to pharmaceuticals instead of other pollutants because the treatment plant had not yet made upgrades to filter these out. Birth control, anti-depressants, and beta blockers were all specified as drugs the treatment plant could not filter.

Pharmaceuticals are not meant to interact with natural ecosystems. As a dangerous pollutant, they should not be flushed down the drain. Although local pharmacy Bartell Drugs ended their drug take-back program in April 2016, according to their website, there are other options. Over 100 disposal sites are located across King County, according to Take Back Your Meds. Seattle locations include, but are not limited to, QFC pharmacies, Costco pharmacies, the UW Police Department, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Such sites make it convenient to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals.

Next time you are disposing medication, go to www.takebackyourmeds.org to find a location near you. Don’t flush them down the drain! Doing this pollutes the water and has negative impacts on the environment. Drugs are not meant for fish.

Written Jan. 18, 2018.

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Fish Like Worms, Not Drugs