In Montreal, one in four people are believed to consume some type of anti-psychotic or antidepressant drug. It’s a number that researchers based on pharmaceutical sale numbers and Health Department estimates of 555 million pills sold in Quebec each year.
The study found a significant quantity of anti-depressants in the water supply around the city, affecting the fishes’ tissue and brain activity. The controlled study involved brook trout exposed to varying amounts of effluent Montreal water over a three-month period. The amount of antidepressants being released into the St. Lawrence river works out to roughly the equivalent of a grain of salt in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
There is data that does show that antidepressant drugs do accumulate in fish tissues — there’s significantly more in the liver than in the muscle, but there’s also more in the brain tissues.
The brain is a bit more of a cause for concern because we have a molecule that’s known and used for brain alteration functions in humans, so if we do have an accumulation in fish brain, it raises a question of what the impact is on the fish.
Eating the fish shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern because most of the drugs’ impact is in the fish liver and brain, but the muscle was largely unaffected in the part people would eat.
The Saint Lawrence is a major international waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, and it surrounds the island of Montreal. This phenomenon is likely found around many cities in the world because Montreal has a typical sewage-treatment system.
Last year the United States Geological Service conducted research in Colorado and Iowa showing anti-depressants in water and fish downstream from sewage treatment plants. “The antidepressants were found in fish collected over 8 kilometers (approximately 5 miles) downstream of the location of the wastewater discharge. The scientists detected several commonly used antidepressants in water, streambed sediment, and the brain tissue of white suckers, a native fish species. Fish collected upstream from the wastewater discharge did not have antidepressants present in their brain tissues.” (Source: USGS).
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