August 1, 2008
Rx Turning Up in Streams
By Stephen Speckman Deseret News
On its face, the trace amounts of synthetic hormones and "personal care products" found in two popular trout fishing streams in Utah sounds a little like a list made for a stop at the pharmacy or grocery store.The list includes Prozac, Ibuprofen and Deet, along with drugs that control cholesterol, an active ingredient in anti-bacterial soap, an anti-seizure medication and a synthetic hormone used in birth control.
And, not available in stores, natural estrogen from humans has been detected.
Not to worry, though.
"These things are in such trace amounts," said Mike Luers, general manager of the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District.
At the Aug. 7 meeting of the Utah Water Quality Board, Luers will be giving a presentation called "Is Your Effluent Under the Influence of Prozac?"
Trace amounts means about one part per trillion, Luers said. The substances are being found in the treated effluent from two separate facilities that drain into Silver Creek and East Canyon Creek.
For those who take fish from either location, Luers said the flesh is safe for human consumption.
"I eat it," he said. "I fish," In both creeks.
What researchers are particularly interested in is if the female hormones, synthetic or natural, are impacting the endocrine and reproductive systems in male fish. They've been studying brown trout and, so far, haven't found any problems.
"We haven't found anything that's alarming," Luers said.
But studies elsewhere around the world and in the U.S. have shown that male fish, because of exposure to hormones, have begun to take on female characteristics. The concern is that fish populations could dwindle if male fish aren't able to reproduce.
"So, it's very much an ongoing bit of science and it will be some time before all the questions are answered," Luers said.
The two water reclamation facilities where effluent has been studied over the past year are called East Canyon, near Jeremy Ranch, and Silver Creek, near I-80 and U.S. 40. Luers said that even though the facilities are not required to remove the trace amounts of substances being found, efforts will be made to do so down the road.
"It's going to be a nonissue, because we're going to take them out," Luers said. Studies of effluent from both locations and of fish downstream will be ongoing.
In the meantime, Luers is asking people to put leftover or expired prescriptions and drugs in the garbage, which goes to a lined landfill, rather than flush them down the toilet.
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