Sunday, August 28, 2011

Something in the water
On March 4, 2008, Field and Banta-Green and other colleagues initiated a single-day study. Ninety-six Oregon municipalities agreed to take part in the research. They were large and small, rural and urban, representing 65 percent of the state’s population. The researchers took a portion of the daily flow from local water-treatment facilities and headed back to the lab, where they injected 2 millimeters of the sewage onto Field’s instrument and scanned it for meth, cocaine, and ecstasy. The same rigor that scientists apply to a new employee or an athlete taking a drug test, Field and Banta-Green were now applying to raw sewage. The results were very clear: The components of ecstasy appeared in less than half the treatment plants, cocaine’s components in 80 percent of them. The molecules of meth, though, were in all of them. The researchers published the study in 2009 in the journal Addiction to much academic fanfare.

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