[Pharmwaste] Nonylphenol damaging to fish

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Tue Nov 20 10:48:04 EST 2007

Scientists find widespread chemical damaging to fish
By The Canadian Press
Tue. Nov 20 - 5:28 AM

SACKVILLE, N.B. - Researchers at Mount Allison University are attracting
international attention after finding that a common chemical could jeopardize
the health of fish populations.

The scientists exposed fish to a compound widely used in industrial
detergents, sewage treatment, the pulp and paper industry, and in
agricultural pesticides. They found that, even at low levels, the chemical
caused the fish to avoid each other.

It's troubling because schooling is a survival technique for fish, and the
chemical - 4-nonylphenol - can be found just about everywhere, explained
biology professor Suzie Currie, whose lab hosted the research.

"It's a ubiquitous breakdown product of detergent and often more toxic than
the parent compound," said Currie.

She completed the study with recent graduate Jennifer Horsfall and former
post-doctoral fellow Ashley Ward, now at the University of Sydney in

Their basic finding was that 4-nonylphenol (4-NP) seemed to disrupt the
fish's ability to smell each other, but in a roundabout way.

One experiment on single fish exposed to the chemical found that there was no
actual effect on the sense of smell. But when a new, clean fish was
introduced to a group that had been exposed, it tended to avoid the group.

"The single fish was really repelled by that smell, and would actively move
away from that shoal. Effectively what that's saying is, when fish swim
through and are affected by 4-nonylphenol, they start to smell bad and the
school breaks up and is not as cohesive," said Currie.

Fish tend to be attracted to other fish that smell like them, but 4-NP
actually changes a fish's natural chemical signature so significantly that
others are repelled and tend to keep their distance.

"It makes fish smell funny to other fish so they no longer want to associate
with them," she said. "You could liken it to when you eat garlic, you can
smell it from someone else."

The study was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal
Society of London B from Britain's Royal Society.

Although they tested only tiny killifish, their findings could represent an
"alarming" trend across other species, said Currie.

Laurie J. Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 4555
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400
PH: (850) 245-8759
FAX: (850) 245-8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

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