Human drugs may be affecting Puget Sound salmon, report says

    A male chinook salmon (Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

    Antidepressants. Diabetes drugs. High-blood-pressure medication. Puget Sound chinook are doing our drugs, and it may be hurting them. That’s according to new research reported in a story from our online news partner The Seattle Times.

    The response was particularly pronounced in Puget Sound chinook — a threatened species many other animals depend on for their survival, including critically endangered southern-resident killer whales, The Times said.

    Wastewater-treatment plants have been engineered to clean out trash and remove and disinfect solids, The Times said, but they mostly can’t screen out drugs that people take — and express through elimination. The drugs pass through the plants into Puget Sound in wastewater effluent.

     You can read more in The Times here.


    6 Replies to “Human drugs may be affecting Puget Sound salmon, report says”

    1. I was hoping this article would include information about how and where to responsibly dispose of prescription medications.


        1. Information on where to take prescription drugs for disposal is in an earlier story we wrote about drug take-back locations here. Locations include the Edmonds Police HQ at 250 5th Ave. N. (weekday hours) and also some local pharmacies. While this is always a good idea, this is not really related to the salmon issue. I listened to a radio interview yesterday with the Seattle Times reporter who wrote this story, and she specifically said that flushing drugs down the toilet is not the source of the problem. It’s what is excreted by humans who take drugs and those drugs end up in our waterways because wastewater treatment can’t remove them during the treatment process.


      1. Darrol: The humor in your comment has a truth at its core, that we cannot avoid our collective impacts to our environment. Mitigating our effects can be very expensive and may also produce additional unintended consequences. The most expedient answer to save the sound would indeed be to put the worms at risk and move us all back to individual septic systems, but no one is going to seriously advance that idea. Something positive we can all do today is educate ourselves so we can act responsibly about the things we do add to our waste streams.

        A great example here of how maintaining ignorance or indifference comes at a cost lies in what happens with the ‘flushable’ wipes that are a huge nemesis to wastewater treatment. They do not disintegrate, but clog process equipment and require shutdowns for manual removal. How much does that add to our bills?

        To expand a bit, folks are misled to believe that just because something is called flushable, it is a good idea to do so. That word ‘flushable’ is a sales gimmick here, much like the word ‘natural’ for food and cosmetics. (Natural = wholesome, but smallpox, botulism, and asbestos are all quite natural.) I once had a supervisor who quipped, “Oranges are flushable too, but no one would say it was a good idea to put one down a toilet.”

        Even a little understanding can actually go a long way.


    2. Thanks Laurie and MyEdmondsNews for the information about drug disposal. I am new to the area and so had not seen the earlier article. I am also a bit surprised to hear the negative impacts of flushing drugs be minimized, although I appreciate your pointing out the relatively larger problem of drugs getting into the waste stream post digestive system.


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