Unregulated pharmaceutical discharge alters fish reproduction worldwide

By on September 16, 2011

Sex determination in fish is more variable than in many species because it can sometimes be altered by environmental factors such as temperature. When drugs enter the water, however, these sex alterations become more drastic and simply unnatural. Wastewater discharge from pharmaceutical companies is infiltrating rivers, and, in some cases, altering the genetic and sexual makeup of local fish, according to studies from India, the United States and France.

Researchers investigated the health of gudgeon (Gobio gobio) fish in France’s Dore River where a pharmaceutical company sits nearby. While flushed contraceptives have previously been the blame for male fish with female characteristics, anti-inflammatory and diuretic drugs were found in the river where the fish are exhibiting intersex characteristics. Researchers found that on average 60 percent of the fish downstream from the discharge had male and female sex traits. Only 5 percent of fish upstream of the factory showed intersex characteristics.

Wilfried Sanchez, lead author of the study, said that these sexual alterations are not only trouble for the gudgeon population, but for other species in the ecosystem that depend on the gudgeon. No other fish seems to be affected by the pharmaceutical discharge.

There are currently no regulations controlling the release of drug waste into aquatic environments in the United States or France.

For more information, read the full article at nature.com

Image Credit: fotopedia

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