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Home Lifestyle Are cops really being poisoned by fentanyl exposure? : NPR

Are cops really being poisoned by fentanyl exposure? : NPR

by Editorial
Are cops really being poisoned by fentanyl exposure? : NPR

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Final December, Officer Courtney Bannick was on the job for the Tavares, Fla., police division when she got here into contact with a powder she believed was avenue fentanyl.

The footage from one other officer’s physique digital camera reveals Bannick showing to lose consciousness earlier than being lowered to the bottom by different cops.

“I used to be light-headed a bit of bit,” Bannick later advised WKMG, an area tv station. “I used to be choking, I could not breathe.”

Different officers could be heard on the tape describing Bannick’s medical situation as an overdose. They administered Narcan, a drugs that reverses opioid poisoning.

“She’s respiratory,” a cop says. “Stick with me!”

The Tavares police division blamed the incident on fentanyl. Native officers declined NPR’s requests for an interview, as did Bannick. Talking with WKMG, a tv station in Orlando, she mentioned she felt fortunate to be alive.

“If I did not have backup there, I would not be right here as we speak,” she mentioned quickly after the incident.

Experiences of police struggling extreme medical signs after touching or inhaling powdered fentanyl are frequent, occurring “each few weeks” across the U.S. in keeping with consultants interviewed by NPR.

However many consultants say these officers aren’t experiencing fentanyl or opioid overdoses.

“This has by no means occurred,” mentioned Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist and emergency room doctor who research dependancy at Case Western Reserve College. “There has by no means been an overdose by pores and skin contact or unintentionally inhaling fentanyl.”

A harmful avenue drug that poses “extraordinarily low” danger to officers

Many law enforcement officials clearly imagine fentanyl poses a big danger. The artificial opioid is highly effective, killing tens of hundreds of Individuals yearly.

However medical consultants say it is troublesome to get fentanyl into the physique. That is why folks hooked on the drug usually smoke it or inject it utilizing needles.

Seizures of fentanyl have escalated lately and the artificial opioid is frequent on American streets. Many police really feel their well being is threatened by contact with hint quantities of the drug.

US Justice Division


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US Justice Division


Seizures of fentanyl have escalated lately and the artificial opioid is frequent on American streets. Many police really feel their well being is threatened by contact with hint quantities of the drug.

US Justice Division

“Fentanyl doesn’t move by the pores and skin effectively or effectively,” Marino mentioned. “The dry powder type that is encountered in avenue medicine shouldn’t be going to move by the pores and skin in any significant method.”

Researchers additionally say the danger of fentanyl powder poisoning somebody when it is airborne like mud is extraordinarily low.

“There’s by no means been a toxicologically confirmed case,” mentioned Brandon Del Pozo, a former police chief who research dependancy and drug coverage at Brown College.” The concept of it hanging within the air and getting breathed in is very extremely implausible – it is practically unimaginable.”

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NPR reached out to the Tavares Florida police division and Officer Bannick asking for toxicology experiences or different data confirming she was affected by fentanyl. They declined to make that medical data public.

We additionally contacted quite a few different regulation enforcement and authorities companies, in addition to researchers across the U.S.

We could not discover a single case of a police officer who reported being poisoned by fentanyl or overdosing after encountering the road drug that was confirmed by toxicology experiences.

The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention despatched a press release to NPR saying the company does imagine some officers nationwide have skilled medical signs after encountering fentanyl. None of these circumstances concerned precise overdoses and none appeared life-threatening.

“The well being results…have been such that responders wanted medical consideration and couldn’t proceed performing their duties,” mentioned Dr. L Casey Chosewood with the CDC’s Nationwide Institute for Occupational Security and Well being.

One 2021 case research cited by CDC of a police division in Ohio discovered frequent signs described by police included lightheadedness, palpitations, and nausea.

Signs of stress and worry, not opioid overdose

Del Pozo believes the true danger to law enforcement officials from avenue fentanyl is not unintended overdose. He says the extra severe well being affect is being attributable to nervousness and stress, pushed by worry.

“Think about you do a job every single day the place you simply assume being close to a sure automotive or a sure particular person [who might have fentanyl] might kill you,” Del Pozo mentioned.

Officers stroll previous pictures of unlawful medicine outdoors the Edward R. Roybal Federal Constructing on Might 13, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


Officers stroll previous pictures of unlawful medicine outdoors the Edward R. Roybal Federal Constructing on Might 13, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

“It is an actual psychological well being downside for officers. It is simply not essential to have that worry.”

Del Pozo mentioned many reported fentanyl overdoses amongst police contain signs that look extra like panic assaults than opioid overdoses.

“So when an officer simply on the considered being uncovered to fentanyl falls over, goes unconscious or panics, that is a well being downside. That is one thing the officer wants assist for.”

Specialists say this heightened worry grew after the primary fentanyl warnings have been issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration half a decade in the past.

In June 2017, Chuck Rosenberg, head of the DEA below Presidents Obama and Trump, appeared in a video urging cops to deal with fentanyl as a serious danger.

“Fentanyl is lethal,” Rosenberg warned. “Publicity to an quantity equal to a couple grains of sand can kill you.”

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A number of months later, nevertheless, toxicology researchers issued a report contradicting that evaluation. They too might discover no circumstances the place officers had been poisoned by fentanyl.

“The danger of clinically important publicity to emergency responders is extraordinarily low,” they concluded.

Warnings stay, regardless of lack of confirmed circumstances

The DEA’s web site nonetheless features a warning to police in regards to the dangers of transient pores and skin contact or inhalation of airborne powder.


Researchers say the danger to law enforcement officials from avenue fentanyl publicity is “extraordinarily low,” however warnings like this one could be discovered on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s web site.



Drug Enforcement Administration

“Inhalation of airborne powder is MOST LIKELY to result in dangerous results, however is much less more likely to happen than pores and skin contact,” the advisory cautions, “The security and well being of the group, together with our regulation enforcement companions, is a precedence of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” a DEA official mentioned in a press release to NPR. “DEA has persistently adopted CDC tips on stopping occupational publicity to fentanyl.”

The CDC web site does urge warning, together with the carrying of gloves, masks and different protecting gear.

“We’re at present updating and revising our steerage on this space to replicate new data and ongoing well being hazard evaluations,” a CDC spokeperson mentioned in a press release. “We anticipate this steerage will likely be accessible inside the subsequent month.”

Talking on background, some officers urged to NPR it’s safer for warnings to stay in place so police err on the facet of warning.

However Marino, the toxicologist and emergency room doctor at Case Western Reserve College, believes exaggerated fears of fentanyl make it tougher for police to do their jobs defending the general public.

“I’ve seen this play out in actuality the place somebody who is actually experiencing an overdose, overdosed on fentanyl, is not going to be resuscitated appropriately or in a well timed method due to this worry that getting near them or touching them might trigger some sort of second hand overdose.”

A picture from a CDC coaching video for first responders who work involved with illicit avenue medicine together with fentanyl.

Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention


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Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention


A picture from a CDC coaching video for first responders who work involved with illicit avenue medicine together with fentanyl.

Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention

With fentanyl deaths nonetheless at file ranges, native police are sometimes the primary responders on the scene. Specialists say how they’re educated, how they view the hazards of fentanyl and the way they do their jobs might imply life or dying for many individuals with dependancy.

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