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Published:May 14th, 2009 05:01 EST

Cocaine Found In The Air In Spanish Cities

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Using a new method for analyzing trace amounts of substances in the air, Spanish researchers have discovered minute levels of cocaine in the air around Barcelona and Madrid, a science institute revealed on Wednesday.

powder cocaine

In their tests, scientists were looking for 17 different factors amongst five types of illegal drugs: amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, lysergic acid, and opiates.

The findings concluded that cocaine is the most prevalent drug found the air of both cities, according to the Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas: the biggest public research organization in Spain with over 100 centers all across Spain.

Cocaine was found in measurements totalling 29 to 850 picograms per cubic meter of air. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.

The CSIC`s study was conducted by way of a new technique, used for the first time in the institute`s experimentation, that was modified expressly by the team in charge of the scientific trials and will be featured in a review in "Analytical Chemistry" that hasn`t yet been published.

The organization reported that "heroin was also found in detectable levels in the samples taken in Madrid, but not those from Barcelona."

Experts described the results hinged on the fact that the area of Madrid in which the samples were taken is near a seedy district within the city where drug dealing, including narcotics, is not uncommon.

Studies found that the amounts of drugs in the air reached higher levels during the weekend, "suggesting higher consumption this time."

But the CSIC said that the strange concentrations of illegal drugs present in the air were no cause for concern to the general public.

One of the researchers, Miren Lopez de Alda, even spoke frankly about the insignificant traces of the drugs that may alarm those unaware of the effects of such a low amount.

"Even if we lived 1,000 years we would not consume the equivalent of a dose of cocaine through the air," Alda said.