Urine tests for cities

12:17pm, August 28, 2007

From Boston, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

A new method of analyzing sewage may offer near real-time monitoring of community-level drug use. The technique can detect mere nanograms of drugs or drug-breakdown products per liter of wastewater.

Environmental chemist Jennifer Field of Oregon State University in Corvallis, who developed the technique with graduate student Aurea Chiaia, says that the method could help public health and law-enforcement officials focus resources on areas found to have high drug use.

For the pilot study, the researchers tested water samples from the intakes of sewage-treatment plants in 10 cities. Plant workers collected the samples, froze them, and shipped the ice to Oregon State.

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