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Is Lake Michigan Dosing You?

By JoshMogerman in News on Sep 7, 2013 8:30PM

This Water Chemically Treated - Art Institute Fountain [ClarkMaxwell]

First it was quagga mussels and all those invasive species. Then a hefty coating of tiny plastics. And, now prescription drugs are the newest unpleasant thing to pop up in Lake Michigan's waters.

A new study conducted in the lake two miles out from Milwaukee’s sewage outfalls looked for 54 chemicals used in drugs and personal care products in water and sediment.

A stunning half of them were found sloshing around at detectable levels, putting into question long-held assumptions that the Great Lakes were diluting the compounds.

Environmental Health News broke the story this week, noting:

Twenty-seven chemicals were found in the lake, with four found most frequently: an antidiabetic drug called metformin, caffeine, the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole and triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal compound found in some soaps, toothpastes and other consumer products.

Of those, triclosan has been the most researched; it has proven acutely toxic to algae and can act as a hormone disruptor in fish.

“You’re not going to see fish die-offs [from pharmaceuticals] but subtle changes in how the fish eat and socialize that can have a big impact down the road,” said [Dana Kolpin, a U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist], who did not participate in the study. “With behavior changes and endocrine disruption, reproduction and survival problems may not rear their ugly head for generations.”

Previous research has linked other pharmaceutical drugs in fish to slower reaction times to predators, altered eating habits and anxiety.

Despite the concentration offshore, Milwaukee’s drinking water tests OK. Chicago began testing for (and found) some of the same compounds in drinking water during the Daley Administration after prodding from the Trib.

So is this something we should be concerned about?

Nah…but that could be the waterborne Prozac talking…so, probably. The issue certainly has some doctors and scientists...and fish...concerned.

But it could be worse.

Rome and Madrid have air laced with cocaine—we just get a hit of chocolate from the Blommer factory here to keep those happy feelings rolling.