Cancer-causing substance used to cut cocaine turns up in Nelson, B.C., drugs

NELSON, B.C. — Police in Nelson, B.C., have issued a public safety warning after learning suspected cocaine had been cut with a potentially cancer-causing substance.

Officers in the West Kootenay city sent a seized powder to Health Canada for testing and results confirm it was cocaine that had been cut with phenacetin.

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The police warning says the once-popular painkiller was banned in Canada in 1973 after being linked to cancerous tumours and kidney damage and can also contribute to death by reducing the amount of oxygen that blood can absorb.

An information sheet posted by Health Canada says phenacetin is no longer considered a drug but is listed as an industrial lab chemical, and is also found in a small number of hair dyes as a hydrogen peroxide stabilizer.

The release from Nelson says the phenacetin is listed as a cutting agent for cocaine on several internet sites but is new in the southeastern B.C. city.

Hundreds of kilograms of the substance have been uncovered by police across the Vancouver area, including 227 kilograms seized last November during a raid in Surrey.

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