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'Aquatic life is bathing in a soup of antidepressants,' says marine biologist
Antidepressants are destroying underwater ecosystems, which we in turn eat.
- A new British study has discovered that "our aquatic life is bathing in a soup of antidepressants."
- Entire ecosystems are being negatively affected by our pharmaceutical use.
- The drugs re-enter our bodies when we consume seafood from these areas.
In 2009, the NYC Department of Environment Protections discovered numerous pharmaceuticals floating around in the city's tap water. A 2010 follow-up study concluded that trace amounts of Ibuprofen, caffeine, Butalbital, DEET—yes, insect repellent—and a variety of prescription and illicit drugs, along with personal care products, posed no threat to us.
A similar conclusion was reached in Britain, where in 2014 various substances, including cocaine, were discovered in that country's reservoirs. Researchers noted the amounts were thousands of times below what would make an actual impact on our biology.
But what about other ecosystems? Earlier this year scientists uncovered a startling consequence of the drugs we put into of our mouths (and up our nostrils):
Researchers in Italy have found that small amounts of cocaine in water can make eels hyperactive and cause significant muscle damage.
European eels, they note, are an endangered species. And it's not only eels. Oysters floating around in Oregon were found to contain antibiotics and pain relievers; Northeastern fish are displaying male and female sex traits thanks to birth control pills. Whether we flush, urinate, or defecate these substances, we're destroying ocean life.
And now, a new study published in British Journal of Psychiatry is targeting doctors and Big Pharma: marine life is suffering due to our overuse of antidepressants. Alex Ford, a University of Portsmouth professor in the Institute of Marine Biology, remarks,
Our aquatic life is bathing in a soup of antidepressants. Antidepressant and antianxiety medications are found everywhere, in sewage, surface water, ground water, drinking water, soil, and accumulating in wildlife tissues. They are found in sea water and rivers and their potential ability to disrupt the normal biological systems of aquatic organisms is extensive.
This is no weekend binge. Ford says that the animals spend their entire lives in this toxic environment, which affects their immune system, eating habits, color, behavior, metabolism, even the way they moves. In previous studies, Ford noticed that Prozac causes shrimp to leave their natural habitat to head toward light, making them more vulnerable to predators.
We've known about the consequences of our drug diet on marine life since the sixties. Like climate change, we've not only done little about it, we've made things worse. The opioid epidemic in America is not the only indication of this; antidepressant usage in the UK has doubled in the last decade, with 10 percent of the population taking them on a regular basis.
Even if you don't care about marine life, this problem returns to haunt us: when we eat seafood, we're putting those drugs right back into our bodies. If these pharmaceuticals are affecting fish physiology, they're certainly affecting us.
The researchers put forward many suggestions to address this problem, including upgrading waste water treatment plants, requesting that the pharmaceutical industry green its "cradle-to-grave" approach, reducing prescriptions in favor of counseling, and coaching patients to limit the duration in which they consume antidepressants instead of building a reliance upon them.
Such compliance will be difficult, given Big Pharma's profit motive and the fact that writing scripts is much more economically beneficial to doctors than counseling. Hopefully we won't wait until there are no more fish left to eat to understand the gravity of this problem. In the meantime, it's just another reminder that our addictions don't only affect us. We're all in this together. The sooner we realize this, the better.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.