Substances used to aid muscle-building and weight loss made up more than half of the pharmaceuticals found in the capital’s sewers. What does this tell us about modern life?
Along with the flushed debris and the thriving bacteria – the wet wipes, condoms, and sanitary towels; the listeria and E coli – that have congealed within the giant fatbergs in the sewers under central London, are chemicals found in banned gym supplements. In fact, they were discovered in greater quantities than drugs such as cocaine and MDMA.
In tonight’s Fatberg Autopsy: Secrets of the Sewers, on Channel 4, samples from a giant block were examined to see what it contained. Caused by people pouring cooking oil down the drain – which then congeals with items that should not be flushed, such as wet wipes – fatbergs are an increasing problem for water companies, particularly in urban areas. But the examination of fatbergs’ chemical content also provides a picture of the way we live. The scientists who did the analysis discovered numerous predictable substances, such as paracetamol, prescription medications and substances used in skin creams. But more surprising was the amount of hordenine and ostarine – described by the programme-makers as often being found in gym supplements, which made up more than half of the pharmaceuticals found.