Illicit drugs blanket cities.

Dec 23, 2008

Cecinato, A, C Calducci and G Nervegna. 2008. Occurrence of cocaine in the air of the World’s cities: An emerging problem? A new tool to investigate the social incidence of drugs? Science of the Total Environment doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.11.004.

Synopsis by Niladri Basu

Cocaine, methadone and a slew of other drugs and illicite substances drift freely in the air of cities around the world.

Researchers found very low concentrations of the mind-altering drugs in 11 cities tested.

For cocaine, cities with elevated air levels also had elevated rates of cocaine use and police confiscation. Monitoring air can be used by public health officials as a novel method to compare drug use in cities.

Researchers collected air samples in cities across Europe, Africa and South America. The researchers screened for chemicals in several drug families, including methadone, cocaine, heroin, nicotine and cannabinoids. While promising in terms of a tool to understand social drug use, this new method needs to be further developed.

And, say the authors of the high levels of cocaine found: "extensive studies still remain necessary to assess the drug impact in terms of environmental safety" and "if the occurrence of this drug is related to market, manufacture or abuse."