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Seoul's Wastewater Holds Unexpected Amount of Viagra

Scientists detected particularly high levels of Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2021 3:17 PM CDT

(Newser) – Seoul may be a Viagra capital of the world, according to a new study, which found high traces of drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction in the South Korean capital's sewers. "An astonishingly large amount of Viagra was detected in wastewater," Kim Hyunook, co-author of the study published this month in Scientific Reports, tells the South China Morning Post. Scientists detected particularly high levels of Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5i) such as sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil in wastewaters on weekends in Gangnam, a neighborhood known for night clubs and red-light businesses, per AFP. "We estimated that the amount of PDE-5i consumption was 31% higher than in areas with fewer nightlife spots," write the researchers, who found an average concentration of 50 milligrams of PDE-5i per 1,000 tons of waste water.

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That's three to four times the level in Brussels, Belgium, and two to five times that in Copenhagen, Denmark, reports Insider. South Korea does have an aging population, but the chemical doesn't just come from Viagra or other drugs specifically for erectile dysfunction. AFP reports it's "often illegally used as an ingredient of tonic medicines, diet supplements, and herbal dietary products." It adds "a recent study found PDE-5i and their analogues in 80 out of 188 foods and dietary supplements sold in Korea." The scientists involved in this study found Seoul's sewage treatment plants were "unable to handle" such high traces. "The PDE-5i in domestic wastewater were barely treated by the STPs and, eventually, discharged into the water environment," the study reads. Kim says the research supports a theory that night clubs are giving out the drugs illegally. (Read more Viagra stories.)

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