Depressed? Feel guilty too, because you’re killing limpets
Sea snails ‘in a soup’ of antidepressants struggle to cling to rocks, and the drugs dampen their breeding ability
Limpets are being killed due to the rise in antidepressant use which means they struggle to cling onto rocks, scientists have warned.
A new study argues that aquatic creatures are now “bathing in a soup” of the drugs after prescription rates doubled in the last 10 years.
Experts have called for doctors to consider the effect on the environment before offering medication such as Prozac, saying its presence in the ecosystem can affect everything from a creature’s growth and shape to its movement and feeding habits.
They also point to research indicating that antidepressants in waste water have caused shrimps to swim towards light, making them more likely to be eaten by predators.
Similarly, the chemicals have been linked to aquatic species no longer being able to stick to surfaces such as rocks.
Researcher Alex Ford, of Portsmouth University’s Institute of Marine Biology, said: “Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications are found everywhere, in sewage, surface water, ground water, drinking water, soil, and accumulating in wildlife tissues.
“They are found in sea water and rivers and their potential ability to disrupt the normal biological systems of aquatic organisms is extensive. This isn’t about a one-off pollutant entering their habitat; wildlife are bathed in drugs for their entire life cycle.”
He added: “Laboratory studies are reporting changes such as how some creatures reproduce, grow, the rate at which it matures, metabolism, immunity, feeding habits, the way it moves, its colour and its behaviour.”
Scientists believe that aquatic organisms can be affected by as little as one nanogram of the drugs per litre, the equivalent of a few drops of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
It is thought that, just as antidepressants affect hormones such as serotonin in the human brain, they affect serotonin in invertebrate creatures. Research has also indicated that the drugs affect the species’ ability to reproduce.
“Toxicity levels of pharmaceuticals in the environment do not necessarily relate to high concentrations, but to their constant low-level discharge, persistence in ecosystems and highly active biological functions,” said Ford.
“In this way, pharmaceuticals that are found in relatively low concentrations could be extremely potent and very persistent, and able to significantly affect non-target organisms.”
Most antidepressants enter the environment having been excreted into the sewerage system, with even the most modern plants unable to adequately extract traces from the water.
– © The Daily Telegraph