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Study: Pet medications finding way into Northwest waters - and fish

Researchers surveyed 88 environmental educators and 103 veterinary care professionals. The survey revealed 61 percent of the veterinary professionals do not advise their clients on how to get rid of things like unused pills, flea treatment, or medicated shampoos. (SBG)

CORVALLIS, Ore. - New research from Oregon State University found that many people do not properly dispose of their pet's medications.

Researchers surveyed 88 environmental educators and 103 veterinary care professionals.

The survey revealed 61 percent of the veterinary professionals do not advise their clients on how to get rid of things like unused pills, flea treatment, or medicated shampoos.

They also surveyed 191 pet owners and found that nearly half of them threw away unneeded care products in the trash.

"What happens is, those medications eventually break down and they leach into the water," said Samuel Chan, a professor with OSU's Sea Grant Extension program.

Chan said researchers tested waterways around the Pacific Northwest, including the Willamette River and coastal estuaries, and found a cocktail of both pet and human medications in low levels -- parts per billion.

"Individually they don't seem to be causing any physiological impacts, but when they're combined together, we are seeing some impacts," Chan said.

For example, for the first time, Chan said researchers detected medication in the tissue of juvenile salmon near Seattle.

Chan also said that fish exposed to anti-depressants become more active and bold and thus more susceptible to predation.

"We really don't know the consequences when you mix so many medications in low levels in water, but prevention is the best remedy and we're trying to get ahead of the curve here," Chan said.

MORE | More communication needed regarding disposal of pet pharmaceuticals, personal care products

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