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  • Date Submitted: 10/06/2010 03:01 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 34.4 
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Improper Drug Disposal May Harm Fish
September 19, 2005
Release from: Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Scientists are calling it a prescription drug dilemma with potentially damaging side effects.

Academics, state officials and environmental advocates are starting to question whether massive amounts of discarded pharmaceuticals flushed down the drain pose a threat to the nation's aquatic life and possibly to people.

In waterways from the Potomac River to the Brazos River in Texas, researchers have found fish laden with estrogen and antidepressants. Many of those show evidence of major neurological or physiological changes.

No one has seen evidence of effects on human health, but a number are asking publicly why the federal government is not taking a more aggressive approach to what they see as a looming problem.

In October 2002, Maine's Department of Environmental Protection asked federal scientists to analyze water samples to determine to what extent prescription drugs had seeped into the state's waterways.

Worried that discarded birth-control pills, antidepressants and other drugs could affect the state's fishing industry and public health, the department's Ann Pistell hoped the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Northeast regional office could give her a speedy answer.

It was 2 1/2 years before she received a partial report identifying drugs in the water without a detailed explanation, and she said she's still waiting for a full breakdown.

"We're sort of baffled and frustrated by the lack of a sample analysis," said Pistell, an environmental specialist. "We see this as an emerging issue. The more we find out, the more concerned we are."

Some state officials have started organizing. Raoul Clarke of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection has worked with colleagues to establish a online contacts list on which state and local officials can exchange information with concerned activists.



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