Opioid exposure still a big concern for cops, lab techs


Associated Press

CINCINNATI

Law-enforcement officers, lab technicians and paramedics in danger of being accidentally exposed to powerful and potentially deadly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl find themselves taking extra precautions these days.

The threat that exposure to fentanyl and other opioids present has led to the use of protective gloves and masks and police departments issuing officers the overdose reversal drug naloxone, the Cincinnati Enquirer has reported.

“The dangers are extremely high, and it’s changing how we do law enforcement,” said Tom Synan, police chief in Newtown, a village outside of Cincinnati. “We have to protect ourselves. That’s the top priority.”

Fentanyl can be absorbed through skin, open cuts and inhalation. Even tiny amounts can prove fatal, evidenced by the soaring rate of overdose deaths in Ohio and across the U.S.

Cincinnati K9 officers have been trained to administer naloxone to their dogs. Cincinnati police spokesman Lt. Steve Saunders said the city’s officers carry two sets of gloves in a pouch on their utility belts and have access to protective masks.

Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco said employees in the county’s crime lab are vigilant when handling all drugs.

“They cannot be cavalier,” Sammarco said. “They have to be cognizant that everybody has to gown up. Everybody has to mask up.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warned law-enforcement agencies about the dangers of fentanyl exposure last year after two agents had to be treated with naloxone.

In May, a police officer in East Liverpool was administered naloxone after he brushed a small amount of fentanyl off his shirt. The East Liverpool police chief said the officer was wearing gloves and a mask while searching a car during a drug arrest.

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