New Canadian research tracks emerging class of pollutants
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Traces of Prozac and other antidepressants are showing up in fish living in the Saint Lawrence Seaway, according to Canadian researchers who have been tracking the new class of emerging water contaminants. The scientists said their findings are internationally significant because Montreal’s sewage treatment system is similar to that in use in other major cities.
“Montreal has a very basic sewage system. The city basically only removes solids, there’s no disinfecting of the water,” said Dr. Sébastien Sauvé, the University of Montreal’s Department of Chemistry. “In any case, the chemical structure of anti-depressants makes them extremely difficult to remove from sewage, even with the most sophisticated systems available,” said Sauvé, who lead the study.
The Saint Lawrence is a major international waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, and it surrounds the island of Montreal. Sauvé has been looking at the chemical pollution of the water system for years.
“We know that antidepressants have negative side effects on human beings,” Sauvé said, “but we don’t know how exactly how these chemicals are affecting the fish, and by extension, the Saint Lawrence River‘s ecosystem.”
Despite a lack of information about the possible toxicity brought from these substances, the research group suggested an interesting tool to track the early biological effects of antidepressants.
Sauvé was quick to point out that there is no immediate danger to humans.
“The amount of anti-depressants being released into our river works out to roughly the equivalent of a grain of salt in an Olympic-size swimming pool,” he said. “That’s not enough to affect people, should they are brave enough to go fishing out there – I’d be more worried about the trace metals! Nevertheless, we are seeing an impact on the river’s ecosystem, which should concern cities everywhere.”
Further research by other teams will look at exactly what the consequences might be.