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New USask studies examine chemical impact on fish from stormwater runoff

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Virtually no fish toxicity information exists in Canada on the effects of chemical compounds spread through stormwater runoff from rubber tires and antimicrobials used in disinfection, but new research underway at the University of Saskatchewan intends to fill that gap.

Sparked by two new grants from Fisheries and Oceans Canada worth some $600,000, the researchers will study how the chemical compounds impact rainbow trout, arctic char, westslope cutthroat trout, lake trout and fathead minnows in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“If we understand better the differences in the sensitivity across those fish species, we can conduct better risk assessments,” announced Dr. Markus Brinkmann, assistant professor in USask’s School of Environment and Sustainability, in a statement. “Another important issue is to find out the mechanisms by which the chemical kills the fish, so that we can help avoid some of those problems in the future,” he added.

One of the studies will examine the impacts of 6PPD-quinone, found in rubber tires, while the other will examine two antimicrobials that have emerged to replace triclosan — a product in wide use for decades that has been curtailed because of potential risks to humans and aquatic life.

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“The chemicals we are studying in the two projects are examples of the many emerging contaminants of concern whose safety needs to be assessed,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Markus Hecker, USask professor and Canada Research Chair in Predictive Aquatic Ecotoxicology, in an announcement.

The two projects will use a new chemical hazard assessment tool called EcoToxChip, recently developed as part of a large Genome Canada initiative to identify early toxicity indicators in, and predict the vulnerability of, target fish species.

Most of the research will be conducted in the Aquatic Toxicology Research Facility at USask.

An initial study on 6PPD-quinone by researchers in Washington State determined that the chemical was deadly to coho salmon at trace concentrations, and Brinkmann’s team is studying its potentially widespread ecological risk to Canadian ecosystems.

“Our research is going full-throttle already, and we will have interesting findings coming out almost immediately,” said Brinkmann.

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