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THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE WATER Scientists take a closer look at the chemicals coming out of your tap by Forrest. Wilder RYAN BROOKS HAS SPENT A LOT of time wading in Pecan Creek, a small Denton stream, search ing for mutant fish. For some time, Brooks and his colleagues from the University of North Texas were observing strange things in North Texas fish males turning into females, for examplebut were unable to blame them on traditional water pollutants like metals. The environmental toxicologists thought the mutations might have something to do with other compounds like pharmaceuticals that were showing up in freshwater streams. Over time, they collected a bunch of fish and tested their flesh in the lab. Sure enough, they found fluoxmetabolites in every catfish, crappie and bluegill they tested. It was the first time researchers had proved that these human drugs were showing up in wild fish. ing legion of scientists and regulators studying “emerging contaminants,” a loose definition of chemicals that include prescription and over-the-counter drugs, flame retardants, animal hormones, pesticides, plasticizers and cosmetics, to name a few. Many of these unregulated contaminants pass through wastewater treatment plants and end up in streams, exposing fish and other aquatic life to an exotic chemical cocktail. More worrisome: The same chemical-infused water ends up in our drinking water. Take Pecan Creek. During dry spells, Pecan Creek 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER