A group of experts from the British Drinking Water Inspectorate recently carried out a series of tests to see what chemical compounds were in British drinking water. Even after intensive purification treatments, the scientists found traces of cocaine.
Specifically, the scientists found benzoylecgonine, which is the form that the compound takes after being metabolized in the body. It’s the same compound that is looked for in urine when testing a person for cocaine use.
Steve Rolles of the drug policy think tank Transform believes that this finding is reflective of Britain’s rapidly growing drug use. In an interview with the British Sunday Times recently, he said,
“We have the near highest level of cocaine use in western Europe. It has also been getting cheaper and cheaper at the same time as its use has been going up.”
According to the charity DrugScope, England has 170,000 crack cocaine-dependent addicts, and an estimated 700,000 British citizens aged 16-59 use cocaine at least once every year.
But cocaine wasn’t the only thing found in the water. The inspectors also found traces of the common painkiller acetaminophen and the epilepsy drug carbamazepine. There were also significantly higher levels of caffeine in the water.
Public Health England recently published a report which assessed the health risks associated with these recent findings. Their report concluded that the levels of cocaine in the water after it was treated were 4 times lower than before treatment, and that the dosage (~4 nanograms/liter) was unlikely to pose a serious threat to public health. The report stated,
“Estimated exposures for most of the detected compounds are at least thousands of times below doses seen to produce adverse effects in animals and hundreds of thousands below human therapeutic doses.”
However, little research has been done into whether or not constant, regular exposure to these pharmaceuticals, even in small doses, can cause cumulative effects over time.
Read more from The Independent here.