STM Digest Library

Original Research Article published in Aquatic Toxicology

The biological effects of antidepressants on the molluscs and crustaceans: A review

Antidepressants are a widely prescribed drug throughout the developed world, and are among the most commonly detected human pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment. They regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that are responsible for transmitting information throughout the brain and body.

Antidepressants acts to prevent mood lightening neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed into the nerve cells within the brain. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) are commonly found in wastewater. Given that invertebrates such as molluscs and crustaceans possess the genes required for reuptake of transporters and/or receptors, and this is targeted by antidepressants, it is reasonable to expect that exposure to these drugs may have multiple biological effects on these organisms.

This article reviews the occurrence and abundance of different types of antidepressants in molluscs and crustaceans. A number of studies have shown interactions between exposure to antidepressant concentrations and the movement and reproduction of molluscs. Additionally, research has demonstrated a link between exposure to antidepressants and movement and behaviour in crustaceans.

This review has demonstrated that there is significant capability for antidepressants to disrupt the normal biological systems of two highly abundant and ecologically important invertebrate groups. Many of the studies discussed in this article were conducted over relatively short time frames, meaning questions regarding the long term effects of antidepressant exposure have not yet been thoroughly investigated, leaving scope for further research. Whilst quite a large number of unknowns have been outlined, there does appear to be compelling evidence that environmental levels of antidepressants have the ability to impact invertebrate populations.

Original Research Article published in Aquatic Toxicology
The biological effects of antidepressants on the molluscs and crustaceans: A review
Peter P. Fong, Alex T. Ford
Volume 151, June 2014, Pages 4–13, Aquatic Toxicology

Original Research Article published in Journal of Environmental Economics and Management:

Assessing energy price induced improvements in efficiency of capital in OECD manufacturing industries

An increase in energy prices may lead to a considerable decline in energy use in manufacturing industries with little impact on other production inputs, according to the results of a new model. This means that policies aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions – such as carbon taxes – could be an effective climate change mitigation strategy.

Companies in the manufacturing industry use a lot of equipment – or capital stock – to make products, for example steel or chemicals. This equipment consumes energy, therefore costing money to firms. The effect of changing energy prices on the equipment used in the manufacturing industry, energy efficiency and use is difficult to analyze because you need to take into account individual characteristics of equipment, and the change in their energy efficiency over time.

The new model takes into account the 'vintage' of the equipment manufacturers are using – that is, differentiating energy efficiency of the equipment by the year it was purchased. By including these data, the researchers could then work out the changes in the equipment's energy efficiency and use over time, assuming the depreciation of capital is constant.

The researchers applied their model to five manufacturing industries in 19 OECD countries, looking at data from 1990 to 2005. The results have shown that higher energy prices result in lower energy use, because of both an increase in the efficiency of the equipment, and a reduction in the demand for energy.

As the cost of replacing equipment is high after such investment is made, the most energy-intensive industries, such as e.g., steel manufacturing, would benefit most from investing in new, energy-efficient equipment, when they expect energy prices to increase.

This effect should not be neglected by the policy makers when designing climate policies for the short to medium term.

Original Research Article published in Journal of Environmental Economics and Management
Assessing energy price induced improvements in efficiency of capital in OECD manufacturing industries
Jevgenijs Steinbuks, Karsten Neuhoff
Volume 68, Issue 2, September 2014, Pages 340–356, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management

Original Research Article published in Science of The Total Environment:

Interdisciplinary assessment of sea-level rise and climate change impacts on the lower Nile delta, Egypt

Clustering projects looking at different aspects of the same problem could help researchers find unanticipated solutions, and help policy makers take action on them. New research looking at the combined results of a cluster of climate change studies illustrates the benefits of project clustering, with a focus on water security threats in the Nile Delta related to the rise of the sea-level.

Climate change is high on the policy agenda, and the European Commission supports collaborative research projects related to climate change impacts. As such, the European Commission Seventh Framework (EC-FP7) funded projects on climate change, including CLImate-induced changes on WAter and SECurity (CLIWASEC) – a cluster of three projects looking at climate change impacts in the Mediterranean. The projects were on hydrological cycles, water security and human security.

In total, the three projects brought together 44 institutions to look at 23 study sites in southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and north Africa. All three projects looked at the Nile delta, so the researchers chose this case study to assess the added value of the cluster approach.

The results of the cluster project highlight the need to avoid silo thinking: although the areas of research were different, the results of the three studies were interrelated. CLIMB identified land subsistence and saline intrusion; WASSERMed showed water supply overexploitation and land loss; and CLICO revealed employment and housing security threats. Put together, a clearer picture emerges: Water overexploitation is making land subsidence and saline intrusion worse, impacting on employment and putting additional pressure on remaining agricultural land and the underdeveloped housing market.

The researchers hope that more project clusters continue in the future, building on the lessons learnt through CLIWASEC, and that these lead to integrated interdisciplinary research. They recommend planning early to align aims, and ensuring dedicated time and resources to the clustering of projects. This, they say, would give policy makers a better understanding of the bigger picture.

Project details:

  • Hydrological cycles: CLimate-Induced changes on the hydrology of Mediterranean Basins (CLIMB)
  • Water security: Water Availability and Security in Southern EuRope and the Mediterranean (WASSERMed)
  • Human security: CLImate change hydro-COnflicts and human security (CLICO)  


Original Research Article published in a Special Issue of Science of The Total Environment
Interdisciplinary assessment of sea-level rise and climate change impacts on the lower Nile delta, Egypt
Janez Sušnik, Lydia S. Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia, Niklas Baumert, Julia Kloos, Fabrice G. Renaud, Isabelle La Jeunesse, Badr Mabrouk, Dragan A. Savić, Zoran Kapelan, Ralf Ludwig, Georg Fischer, Roberto Roson, Christos Zografos
Volumes 503–504, 15 January 2015, Pages 279–288, Science of The Total Environment

Original Review Article published in Environment International

Emerging contaminants of public health significance as water quality indicator compounds in the urban water cycle

The water supply in cities is vulnerable to contamination with potentially harmful compounds – including pesticides and hormones. In cities, the water supply is reused, going through various stages of treatment. Recent research has revealed hundreds of emerging organic compounds (EOCs), such as hormones, plasticizers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products contaminating the water. Despite their increasing presence, we do not know enough about where they come from, how they're transported, and the effect they have on human health.

In urban areas, wastewater is treated and reused. EOCs enter the urban water cycle at various points, coming from homes, farms and factories, leaking sewer lines, and even algae growing in ponds. Although there are hundreds of EOCs, we know relatively little about where they come from, how prevalent they are, and whether they are harmful. This information is needed to plan further research and develop policy and management approaches, to mitigate any harmful effects.

This review examined the water supply in Orange County, Singapore, Berlin and Shanghai for the presence of 16 EOCs – 'indicator compounds' – that are of potential harm to human health and may be toxic to the ecosystem. The compounds – including antibiotics, plasticizers, pesticides, hormones and artificial sweeteners – cover a broad spectrum of compound properties, structures, and environmental behaviors.

The review reveals that water in the urban water cycle is vulnerable to contamination, resulting in a need for tighter controls on sources and product use. The use of some potentially toxic chemicals may need to be restricted, including antibiotics in animal husbandry. Some EOCs can be rendered harmless – or attenuated – by natural processes. This is limited in cities, because of the short water transport paths. So treatment processes are vital to controlling EOC contamination. We don't yet have enough data on EOCs to set standards and understand how best to treat the water, making communication with the public difficult.

Future research should include looking at the effect of EOCs on human health and on the ecosystem, examining their behavior throughout the urban water cycle, and engineering new urban water cycles to enable natural attenuation.

Original Review Article published in Environment International
Emerging contaminants of public health significance as water quality indicator compounds in the urban water cycle
Amrita Pal, Yiliang He, Martin Jekel, Martin Reinhard, Karina Yew-Hoong Gin
Volume 71, October 2014, Pages 46–62, Environment International