Anti-depressants make prawns and mussels change colour, grow larger, and reproduce more

Scientists warn that minuscule concentrations of drugs including Prozac can affect aquatic wildlife

Anti-depressant drugs are affecting aquatic wildlife, including crustaceans and molluscs, by making them change colour, grow larger, and reproduce more, according to a new study.

Research suggests that commonly prescribed anti-depressants, like Pozac and Sertraline, are being passed from by patients into waterways via wastewater treatment plants, or when drugs are dumped. 

Scientists warn that lower than expected concentrations of the drugs in water affect the behaviour and biological make-up of the creatures, and in some cases, a lower concentration affected them more than a higher dose.

Dr Alex Ford, a marine biologist from the University of Portsmouth who has led the research published in the journal 'Aquatic Toxicology', said: “There is a staggering list of prescription drugs passed from humans to wastewater treatment plants and into receiving streams, estuaries, or oceans by direct consumption, metabolism, and excretion or by toilet flushing of old prescriptions.

Read more: Climate change is ‘major risk’ to UK forests
State of the Future report: Nature suffers because of humans

"Marine invertebrates such as amphipod shrimp become more active and increase their speed of movement while freshwater snails display altered reproduction and some lose their ability to attach to surfaces.

“Some bivalve species, such as zebra mussels, were induced to spawn when exposed to antidepressants.

"In many invertebrates, serotonin controls the release of certain pigments, causing the creature to change colour and recent studies have shown that antidepressants can alter colour changes in cuttlefish. The drugs can also affect growth, feeding and metabolism," he explained.

"What we now know is they can be affected by exceedingly small amounts, as little as one nanogramme per litre - like dropping a few grains of the compound in an Olympic size swimming pool," he added.

He also expressed his concern that although the concentrations are very small in rivers and estuaries, an increasing number of studies show " incredibly small concentrations can dramatically alter the biology of the organisms they come in contact with."

Dr Ford said that the release of human pharmaceuticals into aquatic ecosystems is an environmental problem we should consider seriously.

"This is despite the fact that reports indicate these types of drugs take up only 4 per cent of the known pharmaceuticals detected in the environment," he warned.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Executive - Opportunities Across The UK

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Events Consultant

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen for an ex...

Recruitment Genius: Injection Moulding Supervisor

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy moulding company requires ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - £35,000 OTE

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003