O si dice di secondo naso?
In ogni caso, sto parlando seriamente. E per di più l’articolo è il frutto di una scoperta originale della tanto bistrattata ricerca italiana. Senza neppure bisogno di scavare tunnel da Ginevra al Gran Sasso.
Insomma, l’aria delle nostre città non è inquinata soltanto dal monossido di carbonio, dall’ozono e dalle polveri sottili, ma anche da tracce non irrilevanti di cocaina e cannabis. A scoprirlo un team dell’Istituto sull’inquinamento atmosferico-CNR di Monterotondo. Già nel 2007 il chimico Angelo Cecinato e i suoi colleghi avevano rinvenuto tracce di cocaina nell’aria di Roma e in quella di Taranto, ma avevano considerato la cosa soltanto una curiosità.
A fronte di nuovi risultati, Cecinato e il suo gruppo si sono chiesti se misurare la concentrazione di sostanze illecite nell’atmosfera non potesse costituire un modo efficace e relativamente poco costoso di misurare livelli e andamenti del consumo di droga. Hanno allora messo in piedi un esperimento che ha portato ad analizzare l’aria in 20 siti in 8 regioni italiane in inverno, e 39 siti in 14 regioni in estate.
La correlazione tra la concentrazione di derivati della cocaina e le quantità sequestrate dalle forze dell’ordine nelle stesse città ha un R2 di 0,54, valore che sale a 0,73 se si considera l’insieme delle sostanze illecite. Una correlazione ancora più elevata è emersa tra la concentrazione di cocaina e cannabinoidi nell’atmosfera e la domanda di interventi di disintossicazione.
Io la notizia l’ho trovata su ScienceNOW (trovate qui sotto il link e il testo del breve articolo di presentazione).
We’ve all seen those color-coded air-quality charts on the news—warnings about smog, ozone, and pollen. Now it may be time to add a new alert to the list: illegal drugs. Researchers have found that regions with greater cocaine and marijuana use have higher levels of these drugs in the surrounding atmosphere.
A few studies since the mid-1990s have shown that illicit drugs make their way into the atmosphere. In 2007, for example, analytical chemist Angelo Cecinato and colleagues at the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research in Rome, detected small amounts of cocaine in the air of Rome and the city of Taranto on the coast of southern Italy. “We considered it a curiosity,” Cecinato says.
But further research revealed that atmospheric concentrations of certain drugs were higher wherever drug use was presumed to be more prevalent—leading Cecinato and co-workers to wonder if they had found a better way to estimate the extent of drug abuse in a given area. Currently, authorities must rely on indirect information, such as communitywide surveys or questionnaires and police records. These methods can be time-consuming and expensive, Cecinato explains. Measuring the amount of drugs in the air, his group suspected, might be accurate, fast, and cheap.
To find out, Cecinato and colleagues analyzed the air in 20 spots in eight regions of Italy in winter and 39 sites in 14 regions in summer. The investigators collected air samples, extracted the contaminants, and analyzed the results, checking for cocaine and cannabinoids (the active ingredients in marijuana). To rule out false positives caused by other compounds, the team also tested for common pollutants including hydrocarbons, ozone, and nitric oxide.
Relationships were evaluated with the so-called Pearson regression coefficient (represented by the symbol R2), which shows how strongly two factors correlate when plotted on a graph. An R2 of 1 means the two essentially coincide. When the researchers compared their results against records of drug-related criminal activity, they found that airborne concentrations of cocaine correlated with the amount of drugs seized by police; R2 values were 0.54 for cocaine seizures and 0.73 for the total amount of illicit substances.
Average concentrations of cocaine also correlated strongly with users’ requests for detoxification treatment (R2 exceeding 0.94), the team reports in today’s issue of Science of the Total Environment.
The data also showed possible associations between air levels of cocaine and some types of crime, such as robbery. Statistical relationships between cocaine levels and some cancers, and between cannabinoid levels and mental disorders, also turned up. But Cecinato cautions that it’s not clear what—if anything—those correlations mean. The study could be a starting point for future research, he says.
Epidemiologist Wilson Compton of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, Maryland, calls the work innovative. “We’re always looking for more accurate ways to gauge the amount of drug use in communities,” he says, adding that better information could lead to improved treatment, education, and policing.
Regarding the possible health risks to non-users, Compton said “I wouldn’t sound any alarm bells based on this one study. But the researchers did find this link, and it’s worth further exploration. Second-hand cigarette smoke wasn’t considered a health threat either, until comparatively recently.”
L’articolo di Cecinato e soci è stato pubblicato su Science of The Total Environment (Volumes 412-413, 15 December 2011, Pages 87-92) e lo potete acquistare qui.
Possible social relevance of illicit psychotropic substances present in the atmosphere
Angelo Cecinato (+ 39 0690672260), Catia Balducci, Ettore Guerriero, Francesca Sprovieri, Franco Cofone
National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research (CNR-IIA), Via Salaria km 29.3, Post office box 10, 00015 Monterotondo Stazione RM, Italy
Received 25 October 2010; revised 6 April 2011; Accepted 6 April 2011. Available online 10 November 2011.
Although the worldwide presence of illicit psychotropic compounds in the environment is well known, the social impact of drug abuse on the community has yet to be determined. Besides, the possibility of deriving indicators of the prevalence of drug abuse from the content of illicit substances in the air remains unexplored. In this study, the atmospheric concentrations of psychotropic compounds recorded in Italy were plotted vs. a series of criminal statistics. Meaningful links were found between atmospheric cocaine and the amount of drugs seized, the number of drug related crimes and the demand for clinical treatment recorded in the Italian regions. Atmospheric cocaine and cannabinoids also seemed to be correlated with tumour insurgence and mental disease frequency, respectively. However, further investigations are necessary to elucidate/explain/clarify if the behaviours observed for cocaine vs. the parameters usually adopted to estimate drug abuse prevalence (correspond to an effective relationships)/are directly linked, and to understand why the same approach failed when applied to cannabinoids. Moreover, according to our study illicit drugs are suspected to promote long-term ill health effects even when present at low concentrations the air.
► Cocaine affecting air modulates according to illicit psychotropic substance seizures. ► Airborne cocaine is proportional to drug-related crime numbers and treatment demands. ► Atmospheric cocaine is suspected to contribute to tumour insurgence. ► Cannabinoid burdens in the air seem to fit with mental disease frequencies.
Keywords: Psychotropic substances; Airborne particulate; Criminal statistics; Drug prevalence indexes; Clinical statistics
2.1. Particulate sampling protocols and drugs characterization
2.2. Statistical archive collection and study
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Relationships among illicit substance contents in the atmosphere and criminal records
3.2. Illicit drug correlations with socio-sanitary records
Appendix A. Supplementary data