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July 2018

Complete Guide on Fentanyl for First Responders

Complete Guide on Fentanyl for First Responders

By | Uncategorized

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement in the United States has seen a significant increase in the overall availability of dangerous synthetic opioids. A large majority of these synthetic opioids are structural derivatives of the synthetic drug ‘Fentanyl’. Fentanyl is a known synthetic opioid that is listed as a Schedule II prescription drug that simulates the same effects as the drug Morphine in the body. However, fentanyl in comparison to morphine has a potency that is 50-100 times more than morphine. Fentanyl in a clinical or hospital environment is commonly used to relieve severe pain, such as for post-surgery or pain management for cancer. However, the drug Fentanyl has progressively been transformed into a ‘street’ drug that is sometimes mixed with heroin known by the names China Girl, China White, and Goodfella, among others, and can produce hazardous environments and deadly symptoms to those exposed.

The BC Coroners Service for Fentanyl detected deaths in British Columbia alone, every year, in up till April 30, 2017, to determine the steady increase in deaths caused by the Fentanyl drug. In British Columbia, there were an estimated 50 deaths from Fentanyl in 2013 compared to 654 deaths in 2016. And as time progresses the hazard presented by this drug is exacerbated by the threat posed to even our first responders who unknowingly enter into contaminated areas where fentanyl may be present. Fentanyl can be ingested orally, inhaled through the nose or mouth, or absorbed through the skin or eyes, and can be extremely toxic even in trace amounts which could potentially lead to health-related complications, respiratory depression, or death.

History of FentanylThe History of Fentanyl

Fentanyl was first created in 1959 by a Belgian chemist. The drug was later marketed as an intravenous analgesic drug that was called Sublimaze. This synthetic opioid was first utilized in pharmaceutical facilities to provide opioid pain management including a transdermal patch, flavored lollipops, sublingual/effervescent tabs, and nasal spray. The transformation of this drug from a pharmaceutical pain management opioid to an illegal street drug began in the 1990’s as the first discovery of what is believed to be the first domestically produced illegal fentanyl in the United States. The level of hazard contained in street drugs that are composed of fentanyl is grave, with past street drugs such as “Tango and Cash”, a brand of street heroin manufactured in 1991 that contained approximately 12 percent fentanyl produced over 126 overdose deaths in total. And as years have progressed the level of danger has increased tenfold, with over 1,013 fentanyl-related deaths between 2005 and 2007, which were attributed to the lethal combination of heroin and fentanyl, and 9,580 overdose deaths in 2015 from synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The heroin-fentanyl epidemic has led to the creation of the DEA’s Heroin-Fentanyl Task Force (HFTF). This organization consists of several government agencies that are working together to tackle the nationwide fentanyl and synthetic opioid issue. Currently, this organization (HFTF) consists of personnel from the DEA, HSI, CBP, FBI, USPIS, and IRS in the pursuit to eradicate this growing hazard to the environment and human health.

Understanding the Different Forms of Fentanyl-Related Substances

Fentanyl first began as a prescribed replacement for morphine used in both human and veterinary medicine. This drug acts as an anesthetic during surgery, to help alleviate pain after surgery, and to treat overall severe pain. Fentanyl is also used in situations where patients are physically intolerant of other painkillers.

Illegal forms of fentanyl have been long associated with heroin, as it can act as a replacement for heroin, and even be used in the manufacturing of fake pharmaceutical pills such as those of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprazolam. Fentanyl and other substances with fentanyl contain a higher strength than that of morphine, however, the effects can significantly vary depending on the potency and the purity of the illegal synthetic opioid.

Carfentanil vs Fentanyl

Although fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and even 30-50 times stronger than heroin, it is no match to its similarly structured Carfentanil. Carfentanil is up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine and should be treated with extreme caution, as exposure to a small amount could be lethal and lead to significant health-related complications, or death.

Carfentanil is in the same chemical family as fentanyl, but more complex with an additional carboxyl group and an additional carbonyl group. This compound is reportedly 100 times stronger than the same amount of fentanyl and is classified as a weapon of mass destruction. Those who come into contact with this chemical should exercise extreme caution, especially those first responders who are handling chemicals that could potentially be harmful such as carfentanil.

PPEFentanyl Hazards to First Responders

The DEA concluded based on their 1st quarter of 2017, that there were 230 identifications of fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances from seized drug evidence. Fentanyl accounted for 58 percent of the found drugs from the DEA. Therefore, the level of hazard present to first responders is extremely high. Fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances are constructed to be absorbed into the body through any means, including injection, ingestion, and from contact through the skin, thus the accidental exposure to first responders is a real danger. Accidents and accidental exposure can happen from a number of encounters such as search and arrest warrants, undercover purchasing, obtaining drug evidence, or seizures of clandestine labs.

Exposure Risks & Treatment

Exposure to fentanyl can be highly dangerous, as it can lead to serious negative health effects, respiratory depression, and even death. Even police dogs (k9’s) are at risk of serious health effects from fentanyl exposure. However, with proper training and equipment, you can shield yourself from exposure to this potentially toxic chemical substance. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a necessary protection for all first responders to have on them, no matter the situation. There are four levels of PPE including personal PPE, Level C PPE, Level B PPE, and Level A PPE.

When there is a gross fentanyl contamination, meaning the risk of exposure is high, level “A” PPE should be used. Level “A” PPE is routinely used by the DEA in situations involving fentanyl. Those first responders who could potentially encounter fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances should keep an individual PPE kit that includes nitrile gloves, N-95 dust mask, eye protection, paper coveralls, and Naloxone injectors. Law enforcement officials and first responders who come into contact with this drug have safety precautions in place to avoid hazards. But if someone does come into contact with this fatal drug, having Naloxone to administer is critical. Naloxone is an antidote for opioid overdose and administering naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose.

How to Detect Fentanyl

When first responders enter any environment, they must look for tell-tale detection signs of fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances in the area. The detection signs of fentanyl include the following:

  1. Any victims that are bluish in color, Cyanosis. This could include skin or lips and is an indicator of a fentanyl overdose.
  2. Mail or shipments in the area address from China could also indicate fentanyl. Many China-based organizations ship fentanyl substances to the U.S. as they are a big manufacturer of this drug.
  3. Lastly, first responders should consider the “Fentanyl Footprint” in the area. Fentanyl footprint is clusters of overdoses and overdose deaths that have occurred within a small area that is related to the substance.

Decontamination of Fentanyl & Fentanyl-Related Substances

Decontamination is the process used to make an individual and their equipment safe by physically removing toxic substances quickly and effectively. Due to the high volatility of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances an extreme level of caution must be implemented in the decontamination of these substances. The first step of decontamination is to wear appropriate protective clothing PPE to help avoid contact with chemicals. The most important step in decontamination is the neutralization of the chemical compound released. Depending on the chemical, a different solution may need to be implemented to destroy the chemical. However, the level of danger will become heightened the longer the chemical is present in the environment, therefore you want a universal solution that can be implemented on any chemical to effectively neutralize the toxic substance.

FAST-ACT utilizes a patented technology that effectively neutralizes a broad spectrum of chemicals including chemical warfare agents, fentanyl, and even the toxic carfentanil. FAST-ACT works quickly to significantly reduce the hazards presented by chemicals. By the nature of FAST-ACT’s innovative chemistry, hazards are chemically bound to the surface of the powder minimizing off-gassing. Best of all, FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responder to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known and unknown chemical hazards. Learn more about how to use FAST-ACT to decontaminate fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances and how FAST-ACT can aid in minimizing the hazards presented to first responders by the chemical Fentanyl.

Clandestine Drug Lab Chemical Hazards & Health Risks to First Responders

By | chemical spill clean up

Chemical hazards can be present in almost every environment, but significant chemical dangers are only present in extremely volatile environments. Laboratories are a notoriously hazardous area for chemical threats as multiple chemicals are available in the area and could potentially mix to create an extremely hazardous chemical spill or vapor release. Lab workers and most importantly first responders require extensive training and knowledge on chemical dangers, how to safely shield yourself and others from these hazards, and the necessary steps to take to decontaminate the chemical hazards in the environment. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), in 2014, there were over 9,338 laboratory incidents including labs and dump areas in the United States. This number has steadily increased as the years have progressed, making the danger of chemical spills heightened for first responders. A big contributing factor to this increased number of chemical spills is from illegal clandestine drug labs. A clandestine laboratory is a place where the collection and preparation of illegal substances are performed. The manufacturing of drugs, explosives, and even chemical warfare weapons was found in these ‘labs’, however, the main production in these labs is the manufacturing of the illegal drug methamphetamine. Toxic chemicals are used in the creation of these illegal substances, therefore the risks associated with entering these labs unprotected is elevated.

Dangers Present in a Clandestine Lab

Every year across the United States, first responders are exposed and injured in clandestine labs. These labs are not a new issue for first responders though. Since the activities performed in the labs are illegal they are often constructed for ease of concealing the lab, rather than focused on the safety. Many times, the operators of clandestine labs are inexperienced and have little education on chemicals – their dangers and hazards of mixing and combining different chemicals. A number of hazards exist in the environment which includes toxic releases from the chemicals and gases produced, fires, explosions, and chemical burns. Therefore, clandestine laboratories create obscured dangers that emergency responders will need to identify to protect themselves and others from, and this is accomplished through proper first responder training.

Chemicals Found in Clan Labs

Clan labs produce highly unstable environments because of the reactions of the amalgam of chemicals that are used in conjunction with each other. Other factors that produce a hazardous environment include water-reactive chemicals, elements used in heating, and poor ventilation that can heighten the volatility of the environment. Illegal drugs produced in these labs include Methamphetamine, Phenyl-2-Propanone (P2P), LSD, PCP, MDA/MDPP (Ecstasy), Methaqualude, Methcathinone, and Fentanyl. Many of these drugs utilize a long list of chemicals in its construction, which can possibly create a toxic environment when combined. Methamphetamines, for example, can be made from an estimated 34 chemicals. Thus, these chemicals can react in a number of different ways depending on the amount and combination mixed with each chemical compound.

Health Effects from Exposure to Clan Labs

Health effects typically obtained from exposures to clan labs can vary. Specifically, for hazmat and first responders that in some instances are unequipped with the necessary protective supplies and decontamination equipment that may be required in the clan lab. The level of health hazard presented varies based on the specific agent that you are exposed to, the route of exposure, the level of concentration of the toxin, and the duration of the exposure. Commonly reported symptoms to include nausea, headache, irritation affecting the skin, eyes, and mucous membrane. However, depending on the actual length of exposure the symptoms can be exacerbated significantly. First responders, therefore, need to be trained on the steps to take in this instance of entering a clan lab, and what equipment is required to prevent potential health effects from exposure.

First Response Training for Clandestine Labs

With the increased number of clandestine labs throughout the country, a correlating increase in problems from confronting state and local agencies that are called to these labs has begun to occur. These officials are often times the first to encounter these labs and therefore must be the ones to investigate, dismantle, and dispose of toxic/hazardous chemicals accordingly. The DEA Basic Clandestine Laboratory Certification School is the most distinguishable law enforcement – clandestine training according to OSHA standards. Due to the unique circumstances involved in raiding clandestine laboratory sites, tactical and safety precautions must be implemented upon entry of the lab. First responders having the proper training and knowledge of clan labs can help to minimize potential health hazards from exposure to these officials.

Clandestine Lab Chemical Decontamination

Clandestine laboratories contain many chemicals which can either produce a chemical vapor or liquid chemical that can produce hazards in the contaminated area. First responders and hazmat are required to have extensive knowledge of chemicals and a decontamination solution for each chemical class. Thus, they were required to handle and treat all cases with the utmost level of caution. The difficulty associated with determining each chemical is extremely high, as chemicals that are mixed with others can create an even more hazardous environment. However, with FAST-ACT a level of protection to Emergency Responders is available that has never before existed. The broad protection against volatile toxic chemicals afforded by FAST-ACT will provide law enforcement and emergency response workers an increased level of protection especially in dealing with clan labs.

FAST-ACT utilizes a patented technology that will immediately reduce the threat level by initially containing the chemicals into a solid non-vapor releasing form. For a broad spectrum of chemicals, FAST-ACT will begin to neutralize the chemical, as it has been tested against many chemicals that are commonly found in this type of environment. This eliminates the added time and difficulty of determining the chemical at play that needs to be contaminated, as FAST-ACT can most likely contaminate whatever chemical is in the environment. FAST-ACT is offered in pressurized cylinders capable of addressing both liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small-scale decontamination.