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Water-Related News

Prescription drugs are contaminating Florida’s marine life, researchers find

A recent Florida International University study identified 58 different drugs in bonefish from South Florida’s coastal waters. A single fish had 16 drugs in its system.

Fish and marine life off South Florida’s coast are ingesting high amounts of pharmaceuticals flushed down the drain or excreted in wastewater, because outdated treatment facilities are unable to detect and filter out the contaminants.

Results from a study by researchers at Florida International University’s Coastal Fisheries Research Lab have identified 58 different pharmaceuticals in 93 bonefish, sampled along a 200-mile stretch of South Florida’s coastline over a three-year period. In one case, the researchers found 16 different drugs in a single fish.

The study has not yet been published, but Dr. Jennifer Rehage, lead researcher for the study and associate professor at the Institute of Water and Environment at Florida International University in Miami, said she and her co-authors planned to submit it to a peer-reviewed journal.

She said they decided to share the research findings before publication because the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress in 2021 offered an opportunity to bring attention to key areas for investment, like the flaws in water treatment and regulation that allow pharmaceutical contamination.