In a new study by the Florida International University, 94% of the fish off the Florida coast tested positive for drugs. In the study, researchers sampled 113 Florida redfish, looking for 94 commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. And they found them. On average, researchers detected 2.1 pharmaceuticals per redfish and only seven of those redfish tested clean. Of the areas tested, Tampa Bay had one of the highest concentrations. Looking to our Southwest Florida waters, Charlotte Harbor had medium concentrations. The Fort Myers area was not tested. So why are the fish on drugs? It’s the wastewater.

According to FIU, “Pharmaceutical contaminants originate most often from human wastewater and are not sufficiently removed by conventional water treatment. They remain active at low doses and can be released constantly.” The drugs affect the lives of the fish, and “On average, 25.7 percent of the fish exceeded a level of pharmaceuticals considered safe, which equates to one-third of the therapeutic levels in humans.” So it’s not just harmful to the fish, the amount of drugs in the fish really questions the safety of eating them.

The most common drug found in the redfish was Flecainide, which can treat and prevent serious irregular heartbeats. Heart medicine. That makes sense since a LOT of people here in Florida take that drug. The most common side effect of that drug is constipation. Second most? Tramadol. That’s right, the opioid analgesic pain killer. More than half of the redfish (52%) had Tramadol in them. “Ayy bro lemme get two pounds of that OxyFish….” is not just a joke. And Tramadol isn’t just a painkiller. It may decrease fertility in men and women.

What can we do about the drug problem in Florida Fish?

The study goes on to say “The results of this study indicate that there are additional opportunities for improvement by retrofitting existing wastewater treatment plants with innovative technologies, like ozone treatment, to remove pharmaceuticals and requiring such technology on new wastewater facilities.” So the trend can be reversed. But it’s going to take more research, and money. Last year, the school conducted a study on bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys with similar results.

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