According to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, there has been a concerning increase in the amount of anti-depressant medications flooding the brains of fish. The schools of seafood studied were roamers from the Great Lakes found in the Niagara River; medications such as Zoloft and Prozac were confirmed to be part of these fish’s diets, though the source has yet to be confirmed.
The fish affected with happy pills included smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rudd, rock bass, white bass, white perch, steelhead, and more — many of which Americans consume regularly.
The study’s authors don’t consider the elevated chemical levels dangerous for human consumers, but Diana Aga, Ph.D, a professor at the University at Buffalo and one of the study’s lead authors, added in a press release from the university that “it is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned.”
The health impacts of antidepressant chemicals on these animals remain unknown. What is known is that these fish brains are swimming in prescription-grade drugs — drugs that, in such high doses, are likely to influence the behavior of entire species. This has the potential to influence their mating habits, position in the food chain, and success in a changing freshwater ecosystem. “Antidepressants can affect the feeding behavior of fish or their survival instinct,” Aga explained.
The antidepressants are (surprise, surprise) coming from human wastewater. How we will work to eradicate these chemicals from our neighboring ecosystems has yet to be determined, meaning this might be another reason to avoid supermarket seafood.