Salmon Canaries

The Seattle Times had an article on laboratory research and field study conducted by NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center on the effects of human drugs on juvenile Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. The drugs, ingested and eliminated by humans, then flow through the wastewater systems, treatment plants, and finally into Puget Sound where aquatic animals including juvenile salmon swim through the tainted water.

While there is some extrapolation of data from the laboratory to the field, it appears that juvenile salmon are swimming through a soup of 81 drugs and personal-care products, with levels detected among the highest in the nation. Drugs included Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, and Lipitor. Worse, it appears that while pollution is worse near some rivers flowing into Puget Sound – the Puyallup in particular, fish tested positive for drugs even in rivers where there are no treatment plants like the Nisqually.

The drugs are resulting in stunted growth rates and disrupted metabolisms of the juvenile salmon. The study did not include an evaluation of the long-term survival of the affected fish and their ability to go out into the Pacific and return for spawning. Nor did it look at how their consumption by animals higher in the food chain – specifically seals and resident Orcas – would result in concentration of the drugs in those species.

Salmon populations are threatened by climate change, plastics in the ocean, and now chemical poisoning in their home waters. Perhaps the question will soon be who eats the last salmon?

And even for those not concerned about salmon populations, the bigger question is what are all the drugs and other products entering the environment doing to the humans exposed to them?

Think about this.

Visit any location downstream of a major metropolitan area; any bathing, showering, or drinking water there means ingesting or being exposed to the outflows from the upstream source, including all the common drugs (and more) discussed above.

The juvenile Chinook salmon are just another canary in the coal mine – as if there haven’t been enough already.

You can read the article here.

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