Drugs of abuse in airborne particulates in urban environments

Environ Int. 2010 Aug;36(6):527-34. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.04.004. Epub 2010 May 5.


The presence of cocaine, heroin, cannabinoids and amphetamines, among other drugs of abuse, was detected in airborne particulates in urban environments in Spain. The levels of these compounds were determined at air quality monitoring sites by the application of a novel and specifically targeted analytical methodology, by which mean daily concentrations of cocaine (204-480 pg/m(3), up to one order of magnitude higher than in Italy and Portugal), cannabinoids (THC, 27-44 pg/m(3)), amphetamine (1.4-2.3 pg/m(3)) and heroin (9-143 pg/m(3)) were determined in the atmosphere. Results allowed detecting common temporal consumption patterns between cocaine and cannabis (with week-end maxima), but markedly distinct consumer groups. Personal exposure to the levels of all the drugs detected may be considered negligible, posing no harm for human health. Given the worldwide scarcity of data on drug levels in atmospheric particulates, we present this methodology as a fast, economic and reliable tool to obtain high quality data for the monitoring of drug abuse and drug dealing in cities. Applications include the detection of changes in drug consumption trends, the mapping of drug consumption and/or dealing areas in cities, and the identification of new emerging drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Amphetamines / analysis
  • Atmosphere / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / analysis
  • Cities
  • Cocaine / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Heroin / analysis
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Substance Abuse Detection


  • Air Pollutants
  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabinoids
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Particulate Matter
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine