Pharma discharge study reveals big impact on fish

Here's a headline bound to get a second look: "Gender-bent fish found downstream of pharmaceutical plants." And that's exactly how Environmental Health News labeled a 600-word story in yesterday's edition.

What is significant in this story is the 2008 French research results stem from a study of gudgeon fish taken directly from water downstream of pharma plants. By contrast, most studies of the effect of pharmaceuticals in water supplies involve sampling areas of discharge from sewage treatment plants.

"Exposure to the chemical mix discharged from the nearby drug plant may contribute to the abnormalities," the researchers report in the journal Environmental International, the story says. They did not identify the type of drugs made there.

Study findings show that nearly 80% of the fish they tested were intersex--having both male and female characteristics. Their appearance indicates endocrine disruption and can foreshadow larger effects on fish populations because of reduced breeding, according to the story.

By contrast, researchers found 5% of intersex fish at a location upstream of a drug plant. The findings pattern repeated the following year: 55% of the downstream fish were intersex while 8% were found to be so upstream.

- here's the story