In 2007, researches at the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research (IAPR) in Rome unintentionally discovered cocaine in the air over parts of Italy. At that time, the scientists believed the findings to be an oddity but in the ensuing years have found this scenario to be far from an isolated incident. This knowledge has led the institution to a full-fledged study and analysis on the topic.
The IAPR is an institution that dedicates itself to the study of the atmospheric pollution of the environment. It is set up to analyze the emission, transportation and eventual depositing of airborne pollutants throughout the environment. Their examination points to a link between cocaine in the air and some types of cancer as well as cannabinoids (a chemical in marijuana) and rates of mental illness.
How Did the Researchers Come to This Conclusion?
Researchers from the IAPR gathered test samples of air from a variety of locations throughout Italy. In all, they covered eight regions with 20 separate sites in the winter and 14 regions with a total of 39 sites in the summer. Impurities in the air were isolated and analyzed back at their lab.
The research team published their findings in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Their report showed a correlation between the amount of drug particles found in the air and the cocaine and marijuana use rates in the area as well as statistics on numbers of robberies. They also found further potential negative impacts on human physical and emotional health with an increase in cancer and behavioral health issues in areas with higher levels of airborne drugs
Possible Impacts of the Italian Air Sampling Study in the Future
Reps from the National Institute on Drug Abuse here in the States say not to take the results from this one initial study too much to heart yet. It did show some troubling correlations, but it is far too early in this area of research to draw definite conclusions.
Nevertheless, the results of the IAPR research team have raised more than a few eyebrows and further investigation is needed to understand the true impact of airborne illicit substances. Experts are quick to point out that a few decades ago science was unsure how secondhand smoke from cigarettes affected human health when the issue was first raised and this issue of airborne drugs would certainly be an analogous problem.
Sociologists, psychologists, politicians and even economists can hypothesize about the ramifications of this study. Could the amount of drugs found in the air from random sampling reduce real estate prices or affect the way police work in certain areas? Or on the positive side, could this information be used to target areas most in need of drug prevention and rehabilitation programs? What are your thoughts on how air testing could possibly be used in the future? All ideas are welcome below.