Public urination at music festival threatens wildlife with traces of drugs

Urine from zonked-out concertgoers at an English music festival was so loaded with illegal drugs that it may be harming aquatic life in the area, a new study said.

“Environmentally damaging” levels of the drug MDMA, known by the street name molly, were discovered in a river that runs through the grounds of the popular Glastonbury Music Festival in England in 2019, according to the study.

Researchers took samples of the River Whitelake before, during and after the 2019 festival, which attracted over 203,000 concertgoers and featured major acts such as The Killers, Janet Jackson, and Miley Cyrus over three days.

MDMA levels peaked the weekend after the festival, researchers said, enough that it was deemed harmful for aquatic life in the river, including a rare European Eel population, according to the study by researchers from Bangor University.

Researchers say MDMA concentration was 104 times greater downstream in comparison prior to the festival.
Researchers say MDMA concentration was 104 times greater downstream in comparison prior to the festival.
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Recent research revealed that the critically endangered eels hopped up on cocaine from drug-tainted rivers may have trouble mating and reproducing, causing serious injury and muscle breakdown.

The new study found MDMA concentrations were 104 times greater downstream in the weekend after the festival. Cocaine concentration was 40 times higher downstream, however the levels of cocaine were not considered harmful.

“Illicit drug contamination from public urination happens at every music festival, Dan Aberg, of Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, told The Guardian

“Unfortunately, Glastonbury festival’s close proximity to a river results in any drugs released by festival attendees having little time to degrade in the soil before entering the fragile freshwater ecosystem.”

A crowd listens to performers at the Glastonbury Festival on June 30, 2019.
A crowd listens to performers at the Glastonbury Festival on June 30, 2019.
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Ahead of the festival in 2019, organizers promoted a “Don’t Pee on the Land” campaign to inform attendees about the damaging environmental effects it can have on the farmland where the event is held.

“Peeing on the land at Glastonbury causes pollution of the water table, which can affect local wildlife and fish,” organizers tweeted. “The Environment Agency have the power to close the site if there is too much pollution. Please only pee in the hundreds of toilets and urinals on site.”

Organizers told The Guardian that the 2019 campaign had “measurable success” and that it would continue urging attendees to use toilets in the future, calling public urination “the biggest threat to our waterways and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat.”

“We also do not condone the use of illegal drugs at Glastonbury,” they added.

Officials said they would work with researchers to discuss possible recommendations.

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