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Wastewater to be analyzed for illegal drugs in California county

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Wastewater to be analyzed for illegal drugs in California county

Robert Besser
17 Apr 2023, 13:05 GMT+10

  • Marin County, north of San Francisco, California, has begun a pilot program to collect wastewater samples from its sanitation agency and test them for the presence of drugs
  • The data could be beneficial in assisting prevention and intervention efforts, local authorities said
  • Like many areas of the US, Marin County is dealing with a drug epidemic, with overdose deaths rising from 30 in 2018 to 65 in 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, California: Marin County, north of San Francisco, California, has begun a pilot program to collect wastewater samples from its sanitation agency and test them for the presence of drugs, such as fentanyl, methamphetamines, cocaine and nicotine.

The data could be beneficial in assisting prevention and intervention efforts, local authorities said.

“The problem of overdose is a public health crisis. We are losing one resident every five days in Marin County. And so we really think it is important for us to develop the same kind of surveillance methods, the same kind of intelligence, we had applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, to this new crisis of overdoses,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s public health officer, as reported by Reuters.

Like many areas of the US, Marin County is dealing with a drug epidemic, with overdose deaths rising from 30 in 2018 to 65 in 2021, according to data from its department of health and human services.

Twice weekly, the Central Marin Sanitation Agency will collect a 50-milliliter sample of wastewater from the 8 million gallons that flow into its San Rafael facility daily.

The samples will then be shipped to Biobot Analytics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose researchers will analyze the samples for the presence of drugs.

Biobot said they test samples from more than 700 locations across more than 50 states, territories, and provinces, which include sites that are testing for either infectious diseases, high-risk substances, or both.

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