Fentanyl has become a serious public health issue but not just for those “accidentally taking it.”
Many first responders and front line employees can be easily and seriously exposed to this dangerous drug while in the process of touching fentanyl products or any item that has been in contact with fentanyl (clothing, personal items, drug paraphernalia, by someone who has had contact or suspected contact with this drug).
First Responders Worry About Accidental Fentanyl Exposure…
Fentanyl. It’s known to be 50 times more potent than heroin, and a speck the size of a few grains of salt can kill.By now, you’ve probably heard of this beast and the toll it’s taken on so many lives around the country. A whopping 5554 people overdosed on the synthetic opioid in 2014, and deaths continue to surge into 2017 as street drugs like heroin and cocaine are unknowingly laced with fentanyl.
The scary thing is, fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled if it becomes airborne, putting responders – and even police dogs – in danger.
Excerpts from drugabuse.com
Workers that could be at risk:
- Emergency responders (Police, Fire, Paramedics)
- First Aid attendants
- Social workers and volunteers working with those who may be in contact with the drug
- Employees who clean areas frequented by those who may be in contact with the drug (janitorial staff)
- School district employees (unfortunately where students may have been exposed to the drug)
- Bus drivers (including public transit, tour bus and school bus)
- Taxi drivers
- Hotel staff
- Event or Attraction staff
- Dog walkers or dog park managers
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“With fentanyl, if the officer is simply patting somebody down, or if he’s getting a little bit out to try to do a field test and it accidentally comes in contact with his skin or the wind blows it in his face, he could have a serious problem,” said Tommy Farmer, special agent in charge of the Tennessee Bureau Investigation.
For those who come into contact with fentanyl, the onset of adverse health effects is rapid and profound. Symptoms, such as disorientation, coughing, sedation, and cardiac arrest, can occur within seconds after exposure. Since one wrong move could be deadly, agencies are now instructing officers to wear gloves and masks when handling any type of substance to protect their skin and lungs. After interception, they’re advised to bring the evidence directly to a drug lab without stopping to field-test it.
“A majority of our stuff has fentanyl in it,” said Dan Kallen, a New Jersey detective of 15 years. “We don’t even field test. It’s not worth it to open up those bags and put that stuff in the air or get it on your skin.”
Excerpts from drugabuse.com