Health Risks of Occupational Fentanyl ExposureMay 29, 2019
Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that can cause serious health problems when ingested or inhaled. It is 50 times more potent than heroin. Police and other first responders are often exposed to these dangerous drugs when they respond to a call that someone overdosed on the drug. Because of the potency of fentanyl and other illicit drugs, it is important for first responders to receive the appropriate education and training on how to protect themselves from exposure, and the appropriate steps to take if they are exposed.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, only two to three milligrams of fentanyl can cause serious respiratory issues that can be fatal if not immediately treated. To give an idea of how small this dose is, it is comparable to about seven grains of salt. Workers who have the greatest risk of exposure include EMS workers, law enforcement, and health care workers. If fentanyl is inhaled, absorbed through the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes, or is ingested, it can cause lightheadedness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, shallow breathing, and life-threatening respiratory depression. When emergency responders suffer any of these symptoms, it compromises their health, and prevents them from performing their duties.
Protecting First Responders from Fentanyl
To minimize the risks associated with fentanyl exposure, workers are always urged to keep the following tips in mind:
- Assess the scene: Determine whether personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary based on the information provided about the scene by dispatch. Depending on the specific local protocols, EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters should request police assistance.
- Obtain the necessary training: Fentanyl derivatives strongly bind with opioid receptors, making it extremely important to recognize the signs of exposure and to stock sufficient doses of naloxone.
- Respiratory PPEs protect against aerosolized fentanyl: When inhaled, powdered fentanyl is absorbed very quickly, so respiratory PPEs are the most effective protection against this form of the drug.
- Other PPEs for overdose situations: Masks, gloves, and safety glasses are highly recommended to provide additional protection against fentanyl and other opioid drugs.
- Wash your hands: If a worker’s hands are exposed to fentanyl, the visible contamination should be immediately wiped from the skin. The worker should follow up by washing their hands with soap and water and repeat for a second time. Avoid using sanitizers containing alcohol as it can significantly increase the rate of transdermal transfer.
- Be aware of other threats: When assisting someone who is in a potential overdose situation, use extra caution as these individuals may also engage in other high-risk behaviors like physical violence. In addition, they may also expose workers to infections, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Injured First Responders
If you are a first responder and you were exposed to fentanyl while on the job, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will secure the maximum financial benefits you are entitled to receive, based on the nature of your injuries. Our dedicated team will protect your rights and walk you through every step of the claims process. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.