Fentanyl is the drug now considered to be a major, if not the primary, driving force behind the opioid epidemic. Fentanyl contributes to the opioid epidemic in two primary ways. First, there are individuals who abuse prescriptions of the medication. Second, there are people who obtain the drug illegally and end up abusing or addicted to the mind-altering substance. As a result of the illicit fentanyl trade, issues regarding property contamination by this hazardous drug have become a significant issue. There are specific steps that must be taken before fentanyl contamination commences.
How Does Fentanyl Contamination Occur?
Fentanyl contamination can occur in a number of different ways. First, fentanyl contamination occurs at sites that are used for production-related purposes. These include sites where fentanyl itself is produced and is prepared for sale. For example, in this day and age illicit fentanyl oftentimes is sold to users in the form of pills. Fentanyl pill mills represent fairly common production related sites that end up contaminated with the drug.
Although typically less significantly contaminated, properties where people use fentanyl, particularly in powdered form, can end up in a hazardous state. Locations from which fentanyl dealers are located also represent examples of locations where fentanyl contamination can occur.
Cordon off Suspected Contaminated Site
In advance of the commencement of the actual fentanyl decontamination, a suspected contaminated property needs to be securely cordoned off. As has been noted, fentanyl is a highly hazardous drug. A person coming into contact with a contaminated site runs a real risk of exposure to fentanyl, which can result in serious negative health consequences.
A site suspected of being contaminated with fentanyl must be fully secured so that no unauthorized person can enter the premises. This definitely includes entry by individuals who lack appropriate personal protective equipment to fully and effectively guard against fentanyl contact.
Contact Law Enforcement
A crucial step that needs to be taken before fentanyl decontamination commences is contacting law enforcement. This occurs at two stages. First, law enforcement must be contacted initially when a suspected fentanyl contaminated site is discovered.
Second, law enforcement should be contacted at another point in time as well. Before heading into a site suspected of contamination, contact should (again) be made with law enforcement and the local public health agency.
This contact should be made to ascertain what information law enforcement or the local public health agency has collected about the site. For example, one or another of these agencies may have performed testing of the site to determine the level and extent of the contamination. This data is vital for the commencement of the decontamination process. If testing information can be obtained from one or another of these agencies, it also permits a swifter conclusion of the overall process and allows for preventing the repetition of something that has already occurred.
Proper Personal Protective Equipment and Fentanyl Decontamination
Proper personal protective equipment must be obtained in advance of the commencement of fentanyl decontamination. This must be gear specifically designed to protect people who are to come into contact with opioid contamination.
Elements of this type of personal protective equipment include:
- Nitrile gloves
- Appropriate safety suit designed for contact with opioid residue
- Shoe coverings
- Head covering
- Protective eyewear
Ideally, as much of this personal protective equipment as possible should be disposable. If it is not disposable, personal protective gear must be appropriately secured after use and then thoroughly decontaminated.
When it comes to personal protective equipment for fentanyl decontamination, repeat wearing of the gear is not acceptable. Fresh gear must be used each time a decontamination session occurs.
Document the Contamination Scene
Before diving into the actual decontamination process itself, the site needs to be appropriately documented. Documentation of the state of the site is necessary for a number of reasons.
For example, documenting a site before a fentanyl decontamination company moves into action confirms the status before work begins. This protects not only the site owner but the fentanyl decontamination company. Any issues or defects at the site are identified in advance of a remediation service going to work. In this way, a factual determination is made as to who is responsible for the state of the site before decontamination commences.
If prior testing has not been undertaken by law enforcement or a local health department, this course must be taken to ascertain the actual status of the site. There are professionals who can provide effective, reliable fentanyl testing of a site suspected of being contaminated.
In this day and age, a wise course is to test both for meth and fentanyl contamination. Many testing specialists will test for both drugs. In addition, laboratories where site samples are dispatched typically are set up to readily test for both meth and fentanyl.