From Scientific American:
Privacy concerns, cultural differences fuel skepticism about this approach in other settings
Dozens of cities across China are applying an unusual forensic technique to monitor illegal drug use: chemically analysing sewage for traces of drugs, or their telltale metabolites, excreted in urine.
One southern city, Zhongshan, a drug hotspot, is also monitoring waste water to evaluate the effectiveness of its drug-reduction programmes, says Li Xiqing, an environmental chemist at Peking University in Beijing who is working with police in these cities.Back to Mr. Kim:
Li says Zhongshan police have already used the technique to help track down and arrest a drug manufacturer. He says a handful of cities are planning to use data from waste water to set targets for police arrests of drug users, some as early as next year.
Although illegal drug use has been monitored through wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) in other countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, most studies have collected data for epidemiological research rather than for setting policies. “The noteworthy part is that China seems to be actually acting on the technique,” says Daniel Burgard, a chemist at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the country’s war on drugs was tied to national security and the welfare of the Chinese people. Li says the central and local governments will invest at least 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million) in WBE monitoring by the end of the year. He expects the figure to at least double annually for the next few years.
Li is pushing for the method to be used internationally, including as part of the United Nations’ drug control policies. “The experience and lessons from the application of WBE and its adoption by the Chinese drug police in their daily management will be very relevant for other countries,” he argues....MORE
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