The presence of pharmaceuticals, including illicit drugs in aquatic systems, is a topic of environmental significance because of their global occurrence and potential effects on aquatic ecosystems and human health, but few studies have examined the ecological effects of illicit drugs. We conducted a survey of several drug residues, including the potentially illicit drug amphetamine, at 6 stream sites along an urban to rural gradient in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. We detected numerous drugs, including amphetamine (3 to 630 ng L-1), in all stream sites. We examined the fate and ecological effects of amphetamine on biofilm, seston, and aquatic insect communities in artificial streams exposed to an environmentally relevant concentration (1 μg L-1) of amphetamine. The amphetamine parent compound decreased in the artificial streams from less than 1 μg L-1 on day 1 to 0.11 μg L-1 on day 22. In artificial streams treated with amphetamine, there was up to 45% lower biofilm chlorophyll a per ash-free dry mass, 85% lower biofilm gross primary production, 24% greater seston ash-free dry mass, and 30% lower seston community respiration compared to control streams. Exposing streams to amphetamine also changed the composition of bacterial and diatom communities in biofilms at day 21 and increased cumulative dipteran emergence by 65% and 89% during the first and third weeks of the experiment, respectively. This study demonstrates that amphetamine and other biologically active drugs are present in urban streams and have the potential to affect both structure and function of stream communities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry