Minnows More Content, But Some Kill Selves

In a study that will have no impact on human wellness, researchers have discovered….well, regardless of what they’ll actually find at the end of numerous, peer-reviewed studies, we need a headline now! Induce panic with this one: WARNING: Side effects can be severe: Common drugs are seeping into our lakes, fish and water supply.

Start the lead with an anecdote to which all of our readers can relate:

It was barely a drop, but the effect of the drug was astonishing.

Pointing to a digital recording of fathead minnows gasping for breath in a milky, murky stew, researcher Rebecca Klaper said: “We had planned to keep them in there for a week, but we had to pull them the next day. They were going to die.”

Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (that is, conceptually, someone who guards diaries) feels its readers will identify with tiny, gasping fish. But if you don’t have someone poor or disinfranchised with which you can start an article-as-call-to-action, you must make do.

Brian J. notes that you should probably question any news story about endangered wildlife whose first source had to pull minnows out of an experiment to save their lives, but Brian J. is the callous sort who thought of his own pet cats as an insurance policy against the Y2K bug.

Let’s review the experiment:

Klaper, of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes WATER Institute, is investigating the effects of common drugs, such as pain relievers, anti-depressants and lipid regulators, on lake fish and invertebrates. Many of these medications pass through the body, into the sewer system and out to the environment largely unaltered. And because they are designed to affect the biology of a living organism – to reduce headaches, control seizures or suppress coughs – she and other researchers think they could have an impact on fish and other wildlife.

Standing in her lab at the WATER Institute, an old tile warehouse on the banks of the Kinnickinnic River, Klaper reviewed the minnow experiment. She pointed to the fishes’ gills, which were straining open and shut in a desperate attempt to filter oxygen in the deadly murk surrounding them.

“The water was cloudy by the time we got in the next morning,” said Chris Rees, a research assistant, recalling the day after a lipid regulator was introduced into their tank.

But the milkiness wasn’t from the drug itself, Klaper said. It was the physical manifestation of the stressed and dying fish – a cloudy stew of mucous and other piscine secretions.

Minnows exposed to common pharmaceuticals within a small, closed system overwhelmed their environment with mucuous. Instead of publishing the results in a reputable journal, this story breaks in the Journal-Sentinel.

Give me a drop of Lipitor and let me cloud my office with skepticism. Even if the study bears snotty fruit, I’m of the mindset all the minnows in the world can perish if it means saving a number of human lives.

But I have priorities, anthrocentric priorities.