Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are far more potent than heroin. That’s creating a new risk for police, who risk overdoses just by touching evidence or even breathing the air during a raid, NPR reports. In Harford County, Md., sheriff’s deputy Kevin Phillips was in a basement helping on a drug overdose call. Hunting for more drugs, Phillips looked over into a nearby nightstand drawer. “Two seconds after I shut it … my face started burning,” he said. A lab test later showed fentanyl, an opioid that’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin. He barely made it up the stairs to the kitchen, where an EMT gave him the anti-overdose drug Narcan. He was exposed to the drug just by breathing in some unseen grains that were carried up by the puff of air that came out of the drawer as he shut it.
Hartford, Ct., officers raised white dust with a flash-bang during a raid last September. The officers immediately started to cough, and “you could feel your face tingling,” one said. The anti-overdose drug Narcan is an effective safety net, and it’s standard equipment now for all cops and emergency responders in areas with a lot of opioid abuse. Steve Wolf, the medical support doctor for the Hartford tactical team, says the cops wear latex gloves now, which makes it harder to absorb drugs to the skin. Still, many police departments are making masks and even hazmat suits available to officers depending on the situation.