Reduced anxiety is associated with the accumulation of six serotonin reuptake inhibitors in wastewater treatment effluent exposed goldfish Carassius auratus
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Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have been found in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents and their recipient watersheds. To assess the potential of WWTP effluents to alter fish behaviour, we caged male goldfish (Carassius auratus) for 21-days at three sites along a contamination gradient downstream from a WWTP which discharges into Cootes Paradise Marsh, on the western tip of Lake Ontario. We also included a fourth caging site as an external reference site within Lake Ontario at the Jordan Harbour Conservation Area. We then measured concentrations of PPCPs and monoamine neurotransmitters in caged goldfish plasma, and conducted behavioural assays measuring activity, startle response, and feeding. We detected fifteen different PPCPs in goldfish plasma including six serotonin reuptake inhibitors (amitriptyline, citalopram, fluoxetine/norfluoxetine, sertraline, venlafaxine, and diphenhydramine). Plasma concentrations of serotonin were significantly greater in plasma of fish caged closer to the WWTP effluent outfall site. The fish caged near and downstream of the WWTP effluent were bolder, more exploratory, and more active overall than fish caged at the reference site. Taken together, our results suggest that fish downstream of WWTPs are accumulating PPCPs at levels sufficient to alter neurotransmitter concentrations and to also impair ecologically-relevant behaviours.
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