Chemicals Used in Illicit Drug Processing
"The chemicals used in the processing of coca leaf to cocaine, and of opium latex to heroin, are thought to have a much greater impact on the environment than the agrochemicals used in their production. Each year millions of tons and litres of processing chemicals and materials are released into the environment, both as wastes from processing laboratories and from the destruction of confiscated chemicals. However, only one specific study on the environmental effects of these chemicals has been identified, that conducted in the Chapare region of Bolivia in 1992 (Southwest Research Associates, 1993, cited by Henkel, 1995). Here, chemical spills were quickly diluted by the high rainfall received in the region. Some loss of soil microorganisms was noted, but no damage to wildlife, vegetation, fish species or bird life was detected in areas near the processing laboratories.
"The discharge of chemicals from illicit drug processing undoubtedly has some environmental impact, but it is impossible to assess the scale of this impact due to the lack of data of almost any kind on soils, water supplies or biodiversity or the health of local people."
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, "Coca Cultivation in the Andean Region: A Survey of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru" (Vienna, Austria: June 2006), p. 45.