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High levels of Viagra discovered in the sewers underneath Seoul’s nightlife district

Scientists investigating the use of erectile dysfunction drugs in South Korea have found high traces of them in the sewers of Seoul’s nightlife area on weekends, raising concerns about whether they’re being illegally distributed. 

In a paper released in the Scientific Reports journal in May, researchers reported finding high traces of Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, which are used in erectile dysfunction drugs, in the sewage treatment facilities in the area of Seoul that houses bars, nightclubs and the red-light district.

“We estimated that the amount of PDE-5i consumption was 31% higher than in areas with fewer nightlife spots,” the group of scientists said.

The findings raise two concerns for officials in the city, as it’s illegal for bars to be distributing these drugs, since people require a legal prescription to obtain them, and water treatment facilities are unable to cope with treating the high volume of chemicals detected in the sewers.

Alongside directly obtaining it as a pill, Viagra is also illegally acquired by residents in South Korea and other nations as an ingredient in medicines, diet supplements and herbal products that are designed to improve sexual performance.

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The existing chemical level in sewage facilities of 50 milligrams per 1,000 tonnes of water is of concern to scientists, although more research is required to determine what would be a safe level.

The scientists highlighted the likelihood that more of the drugs will be released into the water system around the urban areas of Seoul as the market size increases in the region. Currently, around 23% of South Korean men between the ages of 30 and 39 suffer from erectile dysfunction, according to researchers, with the number of affected individuals across Asia expected to rise to 200 million by 2025.

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