Sunday, September 25, 2005

Of Note: A River of Cocaine

A group of scientists studying drug use in northern Italy recently reported that, based on the amount of cocaine byproduct found in the River Po, the 5 million people living near the river consume about 200,000 lines of cocaine each day (that's about $150 million worth of cocaine per year).

Cocaine breaks down in the body to form a compound called benzoylecgonine, which is excreted in the urine along with trace amounts of actual cocaine. In the region around the River Po, apparently benzoylecgonine goes from Italian toilets to Italian water processing plants, straight into the River, where scientists can isolate and measure it using mass spectrometry. In a similar study, these scientists found large quantities of prescription drugs contaminating the river as well.

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