This blog has discussed environmental toxins and antidepressants as potential causes of birth defects, but never the two being combined. Yet that appears to be the situation in Europe, where there are reports of antidepressants contaminating rivers and streams. The amounts lead to a build up of concentrations that are then absorbed by fish, causing them to behave erratically. Such behavior includes straying from the group where normally they would stay put, or eating faster than usual.
The antidepressants contaminating the waterways include "significant" amounts of Oxazepam and Valium, benzodiazepine drugs used to treat anxiety. Although these amounts are not considered great enough to harm human health, they are enough to harm fish like the European perch. One Swedish study found that the River Fyris contained 21 different pharmaceuticals in the water. The concentrations were "comparable" to the amounts of drugs found in other European and American rivers.
Researchers note that the behavior of the fish could have an untold effect on underwater ecology. Yet the option was not to stop providing people with necessary medications, but to develop sewage treatment plants that could capture environmentally hazardous drugs. Right now, there is little research on what happens when small amounts of drugs get into the water supply. While the concentrations of drugs -- individually or combined, it is not clear -- do not harm human health, they may alter human behavior as well. Or at least they might affect human biology in a way that might not be immediately "harmful," but could alter an individual's health down the road. Furthermore, it is unknown how absorbing traces of anxiety medication could affect those who do not need to be treated for anxiety.
It is also unknown whether absorbing water, or aquatic life, exposed to antidepressant medications can result in birth defects. However, it has been documented that exposure to other toxins in the water, such as mercury, can produce this result. Many pregnant women have absorbed mercury into their bloodstream as a result of eating fish from certain contaminated waters. In that case, they are within their rights to file a lawsuit against the offenders allegedly responsible for the mercury. Frequently the source of mercury emissions is a coal-burning power plant or a coal/mineral mine. If your child has a birth defect and you believe one of these is the source, you could argue that these entities violated a duty to the surrounding community by ignoring health and safety regulations. As a result, you were exposed to the mercury through consumption of fish in the local waters (or merely by drinking water, or by inhaling polluted air), and your child was born with a birth defect. It may well be that concentrations of antidepressants in the water can also cause birth defects, since certain prescribed antidepressants can increase the risk, but more research needs to be done.
The birth defect attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have successfully represented clients in birth defect lawsuits for more than 35 years. If your child suffers from a birth defect that you believe could be due to your being exposed to harmful toxins while pregnant, please contact us today by calling (800) 400-8182, or submit our online Contact Us form.