Canada’s dirty little secret
Posted By PETER ZIMONJIC AND THANE BURNETT, QMI AGENCY
Going Low To Test Highs
Just because you ‘go’, doesn’t mean it’s gone.
Researchers around the globe have routinely tested the sewage of major cities to get a handle on trends in drug use.
In 2008, research by the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, Italy, found 1.2% of the population of that city use cocaine.
Dozens of cities in the U.S. and Canada — including Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and several communities in southern Ontario — have been tested for a wide range of drugs, including legal pharmaceutical prescriptions.
The Canadian cities produce a chemical cocktail of everything from anti-epileptic drugs to psychiatric medication.
Among findings in the U.S. is that while the use of methadone, a synthetic opioid used to curb drug dependency, and methamphetamine — crystal meth — stayed constant over 24 days, cocaine use seemed to jump on weekends.
Researchers say they can’t trace drug use back to individual toilets, but hope sewage testing may be used to test a population’s larger health trends.
Experts say we’re just now starting to understand the impact these chemicals, that bypass most of the filtering, have on the environment. Scientists have found male fish are being horribly altered — including carrying eggs in their testes — by high levels of the female hormone estrogen.
“The question of chemicals in sewage is complex,” says William Oldham, an expert in biological wastewater treatment at the University of British Columbia.
It’s now, he adds, the number one concern among those who have to deal with what we flush behind.
Tim Vickers, Exec Director of ACAP St John, Atlantic Coastal Action Program holds two bottles next to a sewage outfall in Saint John Thursday May 13, 2010. The left bottle holds water from the Saint John river in Fredericton taken across the river from thier sewage treatment plant and the right bottle is from the marsh area next to a sewage outfall in Saint John. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)
It couldn’t be more Canadian if you wrapped it in back bacon and dipped it into your morning double-double.
An iconic, postcard-pretty Alberta town, where a depth of wide-open land nudges up against rolling foothills and then onto an expanse of endless sky. But the water below is crap. Literally crap.