Adventure

Chemicals Mutate Fish in France

Drug company waste not regulated

Scientists have found that a fish species living downriver from a pharmaceutical plant in France show both male and female sexual characteristics, suggesting for the first time that waste from drug companies is ending up in waterways in concentrations high enough to be bioactive. Fishers on the Dore River noticed that wild gudgeon looked strange, prompting an investigation funded by French environmental officials that found 60 percent of the species had dual sex traits. Upstream of the plant, which is owned by drug maker Sanofi, only five percent showed both traits. "People thought this could not happen in a country that has high environmental standards and good manufacturing practices," says Patrick Phillips, head of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program at the US Geological Survey. Unlike other chemicals, pharmaceutical releases are not regulated in the United States or the European Union. Bioactive chemicals can remain in water even after it's passed through treatment facilities. Exactly how the pharmaceuticals entered the river remains unclear. The full study will be published in November in the journal Environment International.

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