The Associated Press
updated 11/25/2003 12:31:57 PM ET 2003-11-25T17:31:57

Fish in seas near a Norwegian Arctic city are getting an unexpectedly strong cocktail of caffeine and painkillers from local sewers, a scientist said Monday.

SOME SAMPLES TAKEN very close to a sewer outlet near a psychiatric hospital also showed measurable amounts of anti-epileptic drugs and anti-depressants.

“We don’t know what effect this is having on the environment,” said Ole-Anders Braathen, head of department at the Norwegian Institute of Air Research which led the study of waters off the city of Tromsoe.

“The measurements showed surprisingly high doses, especially of caffeine,” he told Reuters, adding that caffeine and drugs flushed from city sewers may take longer to break down in icy Arctic waters than further south.

The study showed traces of caffeine from human drinks like coffee and cola at 20-80 nanograms (billionth of a gram) per liter in seas off Tromsoe, which is on an island ringed by waters about 0.6-1.2 miles wide.

Similarly, Braathen said the Tromsoe sea water contained measurable traces of ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug often used to treat arthritis.

Braathen said levels of pharmaceutical residues matched those expected for a European city three times the size.

The effect of the drug traces on marine life are little known.

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