May 16, 2019 4:34 pm
Updated: May 16, 2019 4:35 pm

Cancer-causing substance used to cut cocaine turns up in Nelson, police say

Pictured are barrels of phenacetin that were seized by the Canadian Border Services Agency in 2016. This week, police in Nelson have issued a health warning after phenacetin was found in a batch of cocaine. Phenacetin was a once-popular painkiller that was banned in Canada in 1973.

Calgary Police Service handout

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.

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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 kg seized last November during a raid in Surrey.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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