I recently saw a report on ‘the local‘ about a report of drugs appearing in a river as a result of a reggae festival, now when people first read the head line they might expect lurid details of the THC (weed) appearing in the river or some more outlandish drugs. I think it would be hard to observe this drug of abuse appearing in a river for several reasons.
Firstly what ever you think about reggae music and festival goers I suspect that very few people at the music festival have been smoking dope. As a result the amount of THC going into the river is likely to be low.
Secondly THC has a low solubility in water, it is a fat loving (lipophilic) substance which I suspect will bind to the organic matter in the soil. Also I do not think that it will be very mobile in soil.
The drugs which were considered in the study were acidic drugs ibuprofen (legal pain drug), naproxen (legal pain drug), bezafibrate (cholesterol and lipid drug), diclofenac (legal pain drug which kills some birds of prey) and ketoprofen (legal pain drug). Also five basic drugs atenolol (beta blocker), metoprolol (beta blocker), sotalol (beta blocker), acebutolol (beta blocker) and carbamazepine (a mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant).
The acidic drugs are likely to form anions when they enter the soil in urine, in general from the study of nuclear waste it is known that anions tend to be more mobile in soil than cations. As a result the anionic drugs are likely to pass with greater ease through soils. Sadly I have no idea of the soil type at the festival site, in general clay is better at retaining cesium than a peat based soil.
Other than the last drug the basic drugs have lots of frilly bits (oops I mean hydrophilic alkyl groups) which are likely to increase the water solubility of the drugs which will make them more able to enter the river.
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