“Despite having known for almost two decades that pharmaceuticals are commonly found in aquatic environments (Kolpin et al. 2002), we are only beginning to understand the potential implications of these synthetic chemicals on aquatic organisms and ecosystem processes.”
Traces of prescribed medicinal drugs (and their breakdown products - known as 'metabolites') are now widely found in aquatic environments.
They are excreted by the users and end up in sewage. In many cases, normal sewage processing techniques do not remove all traces before the water is re-cycled into waterways. The effects of these drugs on aquatic and marine organisms (and the wider food chain in general) are, for the most part, entirely unknown. As is the scale of the problem.
As an example, a 2021 study found that minute traces of the very widely prescribed anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (e.g.) could significantly be affecting the social behaviour of crayfish.
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