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Ibuprofen in Rivers can Negatively Affect Fish Health; Researchers Say

Aug 23, 2014 04:15 AM EDT

Ibuprofen found in significant levels in UK rivers. New study suggests that the common drug might damage fish health.

Researchers at University of York have found that fish in rivers in UK are exposed to high levels of common anti-fever drug, ibuprofen.

The team estimated the levels of 12 pharmaceutical compounds in rivers across UK. They found that while several compounds were present in high levels in the rivers studied, ibuprofen was more likely to be present in half of the water samples tested.

The study is published in the journal Environment International.

For the study, researchers used water samples from 3,112 stretches of river. These stretches receive waste from around 21 million people.

"The results of our research show that we should be paying much closer attention to the environmental impacts of drugs such as ibuprofen which are freely available in supermarkets, chemists and elsewhere," Alistair Boxall, from the University of York's Environment Department, said in a news release.

Researchers also accounted for factors such as non-prescription use of the drug and difference in metabolism of the compound. Their modeling approach included waste water treatment methods and efficiency. The team says that their method provided a more accurate estimation of the drugs in river water samples than standard tests.

Flushed-out drugs and other chemicals pose a significant health risk to aquatic life. Research has shown that antidepressants in water are making fish aggressive.

Scientists involved in the current study say that the technique that they used to measure ibuprofen levels in water can also help estimate levels of other chemicals.

"While our study focused on pharmaceuticals, the approach we have developed could also be valuable in assessing the risks of other 'down the drain' chemicals and could help inform our understanding of the important dissipation processes for pharmaceuticals in the pathway from the patient to the environment," Boxall added.

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