Sewer Sampling Reveals Patterns Of Drug Use

While high school graduates in Oslo, Norway, partied hard for two weeks last spring during the so-called Russ graduation festivities, levels of the drug ecstasy spiked about 10-fold in the city’s sewer system, according to new research. In the past few years, water quality specialists have monitored such illicit drug use through sewage sampling there and in other cities, including London and San Diego, to observe the effects of drug control policies.

However, current analytical methods require expensive equipment to collect water samples and don’t allow for continuous sampling of wastewater. Now researchers demonstrate that so-called passive filters provide an efficient and inexpensive means to measure drug use over weeks in municipal wastewater. With the samplers, they studied the ebbs and flows of 11 drugs in Oslo’s sewers for a year, including during the Russ celebrations (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es201124j).

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