From interstate car crashes and traffic stops to drug busts and burglaries, everyday police work often entails danger. Besides the daily risks of encountering criminal perpetrators, there are some not-so-obvious, hidden, and deadly threats. More recently, illegally made fentanyl cases seem to be on the rise.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that "Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl."
First responders are likely to come across a mixture of harmful drugs during job duties. These illicit drugs can include hallucinogens, methamphetamine, cocaine, and opioids like fentanyl and heroin.
The potential threat of unknowingly coming in contact with these substances during routine work poses a serious risk to public health workers, first responders, law enforcement, and laboratory analysis technicians.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Any substance suspected to contain fentanyl should be treated with extreme caution as exposure to a small amount can lead to significant health-related complications, respiratory depression, or death."
Because fentanyl is synthetic and is factory-made, this causes an increasing concern for crime scene investigators, drug analysts, and crime lab personnel. Fentanyl can be in the form of liquids, powders, and pills. Even in small doses, it can be deadly and often unnoticeable.
The evidence collected at a crime scene can involve the illegal substance itself, chemicals used to create the drug, utensils used to create or use the substance, and containers used to store the narcotics. Any small trace amount of fentanyl presented on the evidence can be toxic to the crime scene and laboratory technicians.
Sampling and analyzing such evidence can represent the highest risk of exposure and contamination. This risk is why safety laboratory environments and personal protective equipment are essential for the forensic industry.
One of the biggest challenges first-responders face in dealing with fentanyl is the lack of specialized training and essential safety equipment. While latex gloves are standard PPE, if toxic powders are suspected at the crime scene and in the laboratory, it is crucial to have the safest lab equipment possible.
While a well-equipped state and federal forensic laboratory ranges from general lab instruments, evidence drying chambers, biological safety cabinets, DNA evidence processing cabinets, and chemical fume hoods; local, county, and city laboratories do not always have top tier equipment.
Regarding risk handling guidelines, the Fentanyl Safety for First Responders reportsuggests that processing exhibits under "HEPA or plumbed filtration" in lower to moderate cases is the best way to prevent airborne contamination.
Negative pressure fume hoods are designed for handling powders with toxic ingredients and allow forensic chemists to analyze evidence inside a controlled enclosure safely.
The use of chemical fume hoods in a forensic laboratory should always be considered where fentanyl may be present and in all cases of drug sampling, precisely because of the filtration technology involved.
The number one recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to "reduce employees' exposures to cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine" is improving the use of "enclosed or semi-enclosed ventilated spaces in controlled substances laboratories."
The Mystaire Latitude™ Fentanyl Filtered Hood provides a negative pressure environment and effectively pulls any particulate away from the operator, eliminating end-user exposure. The Fentanyl Filtered Hood is ideal for protecting forensic scientists because of the turbulence-free, redundant HEPA filtration system with constant face velocity and filter monitoring.
The EverSafe III, TOUCH Safety Controller on the fume hood, provides added security and removes the guesswork associated with proper fume hood function. Meeting fume hood requirements, OSHA and ANSI/AIHA standards, EverSafe constantly monitors the complete filtration system and displays airflow at the face of the Hood. The advanced audible and visual alarms alert the end-user if airflow or filter issues arise during operation.
Another reason why The Mystaire Latitude™ Fentanyl Filtered Hood is ideal for forensic analysis is the added waste disposal port. A waste or biohazard bag can easily be attached and ensures your safety is never compromised while removing contaminated weighing vessels, evidence bags, boxes, and examination gloves from the work area.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recommends that professionals conduct drug analysis and field tests in a proper crime scene laboratory. Double-check that your forensic laboratory has superior protection, enhanced technology, and the best safety services.
Protecting against this ongoing drug crisis is a job for everyone involved. We know how important it is for first-responders to improve and help our community, but ensuring the safety of all public service officials is priority for Mystaire.