EXTREME WASHINGTON

At the Mercy of Man-Made Pollutants

(By Fred Greaves For The Washington Post)

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Very much of this place we live in -- despite all the hype and hyperbole about being a hub of the universe -- is pretty much the same as a lot of other places. But there are some things about it -- sometimes a job, sometimes a place, sometimes a scientific experiment -- that are close to unique. Almost . . . extreme.

And now comes word that Prozac is bad for mussels.

Not muscles.

Mussels.

That's right. A Gaithersburg-based government research center reported this month that studies show Prozac, the famous antidepressant for humans, disrupts the reproductive systems of freshwater mussels.

At least it did "in a controlled setting," according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"In a controlled setting" means that someone gave Prozac to mussels.

There is a reason this was done. But we'll discuss that later. And, no, it was not to bring them out of their shells.

Actually, this was not the first time Prozac was administered to mussels. In 1998, a scientist at Gettysburg College gave the drug to zebra mussels, which brought on what were described as orgasms.

Prozac -- technically Fluoxetine hydrochloride -- already has been administered to nervous dogs, neurotic cockatoos and obsessive cats. It makes them chill and can cure such compulsive behaviors as feather plucking and tail gnawing.

National Geographic reported last year that the Toledo Zoo tried Prozac on an overwrought gorilla and that a Canadian zoo gave some to an anxious polar bear who paced.

But mussels are not known to pace.


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