Air in Rome has cocaine and marijuana
Scientists have discovered particles of cocaine and marijuana, as well as caffeine and tobacco, in the air of Rome, researchers from Italy's National Research Councl reported on Thursday.
The concentration of drugs was heavy in the air around Rome's Sapienza university and even heavier directly above the Vatican, raising questions about the nature of the "incense" and "candles" being burned during masses there.
If the candles are made from hemp and the incense includes narcotics or other drugs, which some researchers believe may have been introduced at the directive of Pope Benedict, it may help explain why so many visitors to the Vatican during Benedict's tenure report liking him more than they first believed possible. It may also help to explain the exponential increase in candle sales at the Vatican gift shop.
The head of the group that conducted the study, the National Research Council's Dr. Angelo Cecinato, warned against drawing conclusions about students' recreational habits, or about the ability of prayer to deliver recreational drugs in a short time frame once supplies have been exhausted at 3 in the morning.
Calling their study "the first in the world to show the presence of particles of cocaine suspended in the atmosphere of the city", the researchers said they took samples in Rome, the southern city of Taranto, in Algiers in North Africa, and all around the Vatican.
Nicotine and caffeine were detected in all places, "showing how widespread consumption of these substances is and how they remain in the atmosphere."
Cocaine and marijuana concentratons were heaviest in the air around the Vatican, especially above the east window of Pope Benedict's bedroom and directly above the break area at the back of St. Peters, "showing how widespread consumption of these substances is and how they remain in the atmosphere."
The concentration of cocaine in Rome's atmosphere was only 0.1 nanograms (1 nanogram is one billionth of a gram) per cubic metre at its height during winter months, the researchers said. The levels spiked to 0.5 nanograms per cubic metre whenever Pope Benedict appeared at the balcony to wave at the crowds on St. Peters.
One possible solution to the rather unhealthy spikes was to confine Pope Benedict in windowless rooms more often or, when he travels outdoors, to encourage him to do so without first applying his "Pope makeup," which is painful to apply and is one reason he must use narcotics.
Vatican press officers concede that this may not be possible since traveling without his elaborate"Pope makeup" will reveal to faithful all around the world that Benedict is in fact a dark lord of the Sith.
This is no excuse, the scientists said.
"It is well documented that even small concentrations in the air of these pollutants can seriously damage health," said Dr. Ivo Allegrini of the CNR's Institute for Atmospheric Pollution.
The Vatican said it is aware of the findings and is preparing to form a committee of cardinals to examine the issue of whether it may be appropriate to reintroduce the "Pope mobile," so that when the Pope travels outdoors, the particles he ingests on a regular and heavy basis may collect around his person and not dissipate into the air.
On the Web:
The National Research Council of Italy: "La cocaina è anche nell’aria"
A Pope mobile timeline
Star Wars Databank: How to identify a dark lord of the Sith