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Marine Fisheries - Fish On Drugs

Marine Fisheries

Task Force: Endocrine Disrupters Impact Fish

fish on drugs

By Kelly Odom
Fish Eye News
Aug. 2011 Archive

A task force set up to look at the effects of medications and other chemicals on North Carolina marine fisheries has determined that these substances can impact fish reproduction capabilities.

The Endocrine Disrupter Chemical Task Force found that even in small concentrations, chemicals can interfere with the natural biological processes of various aquatic animals. However, little is known about the extent these chemicals are present or affecting aquatic organisms in North Carolina’s coastal waters.

“Increased proportions of female-to-male fish and shellfish, fish with both sex organs and reduced reproduction potential are some of the effects that are being found, among others, in some waters of the United States, ” said Anne Deaton, chief of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Section.

Endocrine disrupters are synthetic chemicals that cause the body to mimic or block hormone functions. They can be found in pesticides, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals and sewage.

Some medications that humans take are endocrine disruptors, and humans excrete them through urine into the toilet. While wastewater goes to a sewage treatment plant, the current treatment method does not remove these chemicals before the effluent is discharged into rivers.

Other endocrine disrupters can get into coastal waters through stormwater runoff, the task force found. For instance, flea control substances used on pets can impact crustaceans, the task force found. These chemicals are being found in surface water testing in some areas of the United States.

“Other chemicals used to kill pests such as mosquitos and fire ants on golf courses and yards work similarly by altering normal growth and development,” Deaton said.

“They work by disrupting the molting stage of the pest - so it makes sense that the chemical could also disrupt the molting and reproduction cues of crustaceans and mollusks.”

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Commission established the task force in 2008 at the request of former Marine Fisheries Commission member B.J. Copeland.

The group consisted of representatives from N.C. State University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the U.S. Geological Survey, the N.C. Division of Environmental Health, the N.C. Division of Water Quality, the N.C. Department of Agriculture, and the Division of Marine Fisheries. The task force presented their report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture in April 2010.

In addition to decreased reproduction capabilities, endocrine disruptors can alter sexual development and cause environmental antibiotic resistance. This can lead to changes in population structure or localized extinction of some species.

The task force recommended setting up a site-specific, compound specific monitoring program to assess potential impacts of endocrine disruptors in North Carolina’s estuaries, developing cost-effective technology to remove endocrine disruptors from wastewater, and developing statewide drug take-back programs. The N.C. Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Biannual Implementation Plan for 2011-2013 includes a recommendation to seek funding for endocrine disruptor research.

The task force also suggested that the Division of Water Quality expand its sampling program to include collection of water samples for analyses.

One thing the public can already do to help protect coastal waters is to participate in Operation Medicine Drop.

This medication take-back initiative, run by Safe Kids North Carolina, provides a free, safe and secure way to dispose of unwanted over-the-counter and prescription medications. It was set up to prevent accidental poisonings and drug abuse, but can provide a dual purpose in protecting coastal resources.

Operation Medicine Drop holds annual events statewide during the fourth week of March as part of National Poison Prevention Week. Kelly Ransdell, director of Safe Kids North Carolina, said that since the program began in 2010, more than 6.5 million doses of medicine have been collected and destroyed.

“Safe Kids North Carolina concentrates on Poison Prevention Week to hold Operation Medicine Drop, but law enforcement agencies can hold as many or few take-back events throughout the year that they choose,” Ransdell said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, in partnership with Operation Medicine Drop, is sponsoring a prescription take-back day 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 29. Information about when and where events are being held may be found at http://www.ncdoi.com/OSFM/SafeKids/sk_OperationMedicineDrop.asp.

The Carteret County Sherriff’s Department and Pitt County Sherriff’s Department have drop boxes inside their offices to accept unused medications at any time of the year. People may stop by during regular operational hours and drop off unused medications.

The Division of Marine Fisheries hopes to schedule a drug take-back event in the coming months.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252 726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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