Sewage Tests Show Swiss Aren't Squeaky-Clean

By Gabrielle Wuhl 08/07/12

The residents of four Swiss cities are among the highest cocaine users in Europe.

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The Swiss reputation for sparkling cleanliness is being challenged by a new report that shows the cities of Bern, Geneva, Lucerne and Zurich are amongst the highest for cocaine use in Europe. Published in Science of the Total Environment, the findings were based on tests of the sewage water of 15 million people in 19 European cities. The quantity of cocaine in Swiss city sewers was found to be amongst the highest in all of Europe—even climbing up to four times higher during events such as the Zurich Street Parade and music festivals. The research also found that Europeans consume approximately 356 kilos of cocaine every day—or 10-15% of the global production—according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "The amounts of cocaine...were in the same range as those European cities with the highest consumption," said Christoph Ort of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Swiss cities consume, on average, 1.5 grams per day per 1,000 people. Barcelona, London, Milan and Paris aren't far behind, however, with residents of these cities registering average use of 0.5-1 gram of the drug, followed by Scandinavian cities like Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki. The research also indicated that the drug is used most widely in central and western Europe, as opposed to eastern and northern regions.

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