Psychoactive Substances in Airborne Particles in the Urban Environment

  • M. VianaEmail author
  • C. Postigo
  • C. Balducci
  • A. Cecinato
  • M. J. López de Alda
  • D. Barceló
  • B. Artíñano
  • P. López-Mahía
  • A. Alastuey
  • X. Querol
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 20)


The Earth’s atmosphere is affected by the presence of psychotropic chemicals, both licit and illicit substances, not only in major city centres but also in suburban and rural regions. Dedicated analytical procedures, most of them based on gas or liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, have been optimised for the detection of these substances. Nicotine and caffeine (licit substances), are widespread in the world at concentrations sometimes reaching 100ng/m3. Conversely, drugs of abuse (namely cocaine, cannabinoids, heroin and amphetamines, which are in most countries illicit) rarely exceed 1ng/m3 each. However, their presence in airborne particles is virtually ubiquitous in agreement with what was observed in the past for surface and waste waters. The spatial and temporal variability of psychotropic substances in the atmosphere has been an object of study in different types of urban areas, whereas data are scarcer for rural areas. In the current ambient concentrations, personal exposure to airborne drugs of abuse may be considered negligible, posing no harm to human health. The possibility of drawing abuse prevalence indicators from the drug contents in the air merits, however, to be explored.


Air quality Drugs of abuse Human health Psychotropic substances 



This work was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the Ramón y Cajal programme and the project NANO-TROJAN (CTM2011-24051). Cristina Postigo acknowledges the European Social Fund and AGAUR (Generalitat de Catalunya, Spain) for their economical support through the FI pre-doctoral grant. The authors would also like to thank Prof. Amador Muñoz and his staff (Atmospheric Science Center, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), who kindly provided particulate samples from Mexico City.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Viana
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Postigo
    • 1
  • C. Balducci
    • 2
  • A. Cecinato
    • 2
  • M. J. López de Alda
    • 1
  • D. Barceló
    • 1
  • B. Artíñano
    • 3
  • P. López-Mahía
    • 4
  • A. Alastuey
    • 1
  • X. Querol
    • 1
  1. 1.IDAEA-CSIC, Institute for Environmental Assessment and Water ResearchBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Istituto Inquinamento Atmosferico CNRMonterotondo Stazione RMItaly
  3. 3.CIEMAT, Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology ResearchMadridSpain
  4. 4.Department of Analytical ChemistryUniversity of A CoruñaA CoruñaSpain

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