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The drugs found in London’s fatberg autopsy present a surprising discovery into city life

Channel 4 via Thames Water
It all ends up somewhere.
By Lianna Brinded
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When scientists performed an autopsy on a chunk of London’s huge fatberg, they found the monstrous lump contained 20 types of drugs. Perhaps more surprising was that it had a higher concentration of prohibited gym supplements than street drugs, such as cocaine and MDMA.

Channel 4 and utilities company Thames Water ordered the autopsy to show the public that clogging the sewers presents a health risk. Most of its contents were standard fatberg fare, with 90% composed of cooking oil, and the rest largely wet wipes and diapers.

But the discovery of the drugs was “a sobering window into the lives of people living above the sewer,” said presenter Rick Edwards on the program Fatberg Autopsy: Secrets of the Sewers, which aired on April 24.

Paracetamol, a common household drug also known as acetaminophen that helps with moderate pain relief, and salicylic acid, which is used in topical acne cream, topped the list. But it was the discovery of performance-enhancing sports supplements, hordenine (an alternative to anabolic steroids) and ostarine (for muscle gain), registering a higher concentration than street drugs that was the most surprising. Both drugs are on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list and are not licensed for medical use in the UK.

Dr. John Wilkinson from the University of York said there’s no way of knowing whether these drugs were flushed down the toilet or the chemicals made their way into the sewers because they couldn’t be broken down by the human body.

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