Two lethal samples at Canberra pill test

Jennifer Jennings
Half of the pills tested at Groovin in the Moo were MDMA but two samples included lethal substances

Two lethal ingredients, some Polish toothpaste and paint have been uncovered in pills tested at a Canberra music festival.

In what is being hailed as a tremendous success, organisers of the Australian-first trial tested 85 samples at the Groovin the Moo event on Sunday.

Half of the pills tested were pure MDMA, but the other 50 per cent contained other substances including Polish toothpaste, condensed milk and paint.

STA-SAFE Consortium's Dr David Caldicott said two of the samples were red flagged as deadly, including one containing the lethal N-Ethylpentylone chemical.

"The machine that we used was front loaded with every compound that is known in any library anywhere in the world two days before the event and yet still there was a compound which the machine struggled with," he told reporters in Canberra on Monday about the other lethal ingredient.

They spoke to 128 young people who came through the tent, which organisers said would normally be "invisible" to authorities.

Dr Caldicott said some festival-goers were standing in the rain to get their pills tested.

"We had all grand ideas of getting out and looking at some music and maybe having some dinner and we barely had time to get out and have a wee," he said.

The emergency doctor said it's not a matter of if but when more testing at festivals takes place.

"If I have anything to do about it I will personally purchase a neon sign," he said.

A previously proposed trial at Canberra festival Spilt Milk was stopped at the last minute last year.

Despite the short notice for this trial, Dr Caldicott was delighted by the lifesaving results.

"I think we may have broken the ice," he said.

"I think next time round there won't be as big a brouhaha."

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said the lessons learnt from an evaluation into the exercise would be valuable for the territory and other states.

He said if authorities continue to take the same approach as the past 30 years on drug policy they'll get the same results - young people putting themselves in harm's way.

"At least with pill testing they have some information to guide their behaviour and we did see yesterday people changing their behavioural choices."

ACT Chief Police Officer Assistant Commissioner Justine Saunders said police were pleased with the very little anti-social behaviour and few arrests at the festival.

She said her officers kept a safe distance from the tent.