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15 January 2017

Protection from Fentanyl Contamination

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic. It is estimated to be 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and about 40 to 50 times stronger than pure heroin

Fentanyl is so potent that it is dangerous even for first responders such as ambulance and police officers who might accidentally touch it on a patient or breath in even a tiny amount of it.

A single accidental puff of Fentanyl is enough to send a full-grown man off to A&E on blue lights.

The unprecedented rise of Fentanyl abuse in the UK is causing serious issues for those emergency services responding to overdosed patients and even contaminated prisoners.

The drug naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose. However, because Fentanyl is so potent, it may require several doses of naloxone to bring someone out of a Fentanyl overdose.

Nitrile gloves, preferably two sets (double gloving), should be used during the handling and sampling of any suspected patients or drugs exhibits that may contain Fentanyl, analogues, and other potent synthetic opioids and analgesic drugs. Although not required, gloves that are dark in colour such as black or dark purple will show white powder contamination much easier than coloured gloves.

If possible seek nitrile gloves that have a longer cuff length from the wrist to ensure that skin at the wrist is not exposed during handling such as 11” cuff. A thicker nitrile glove such as 8 mil glove versus a 4 or 5 mil glove will assist in ensuring that an accidental tear through during patient or exhibit handling are less likely to occur.

There are dozens of different half face and full face masks and air purifying respirators (APRs) available for purchase. The use of a full face APR is preferred to protect against inadvertent exposure to possible Fentanyl through airborne contamination through the eyes, especially during the handling of exhibits that meet the definition of moderate to high risk as defined in the handling guidelines.

Any employee issued and using any APR must have appropriate training in the respirator and receive fit testing for the respirator. In addition to the respirator, if using the respiratory protection for operational duties outside an exhibit processing location in a secure building, consideration to the purchase of voice amplification devices should be made. APRs create a muffled sound when talking that could be detrimental and dangerous during operational and tactical deployments for ambulance and police personnel. 

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