Microscopic silver particles that are added as an antimicrobial agent to athletic clothing, condoms and yoga mats, among many other products, have been shown to harm fish and freshwater ecosystems when released in quantities that are similar to what is thought to be emerging from wastewater plants across Canada.
Researchers who laced a Northern Ontario lake with the material, known as nanosilver, as part of a multiyear experiment, say the adverse effects they measured in two species of fish were significant enough, both individually and at the population level, to warrant including the unregulated substance as part of Canada’s water safety guidelines for the metal.
“We found effects right down to the cellular level,” said Lauren Hayhurst, a fisheries biologist at the Experimental Lakes Area, near Kenora, Ont., where the work was conducted.
Ms. Hayhurst said that soon after nanosilver was added to a small lake at the research facility in 2014 and 2015, the yellow perch she and her colleagues examined were found to be accumulating the tiny metallic particles, primarily in their gills.
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