A potentially deadly fentanyl spill that happened at the Duluth Police Department has prompted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to modify current lab procedures for repacking and returning drug evidence.
Like A Bag Of Flour That Tipped Over
An undercover officer and a crime scene technician were reportedly transporting drug evidence from the GBI lab at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, June 28, when they realized that one of the boxes containing the drugs spilled. The spill was said to look like a bag of flour that tipped over.
The area where the incident happened was immediately quarantined. The crime scene technician and the police officer were quickly quarantined as well.
"They've been exposed. They are set aside and when the fire department shows up, they are decontaminated. They take off all their clothes and are sprayed with water," public information officer Ted Sadowski said.
The incident was a hazmat situation. Hazmat crew members used water hoses to clean the areas that may have been exposed to the dangerous drug. The incident appeared to have not caused serious injury to anyone though and the scary situation was over by 2:30 p.m. The two officers who were transmitting the drug evidence were also expected to be fine.
"It was pretty scary being so close to, you know, to something that can kill you with the smallest grain," Sadowski said.
Investigation revealed that that the evidence containing fine furanyl fentanyl leaked through the untaped corners and seams of the box.
The incident prompted GBI's Crime Lab to modify current procedures for repackaging and returning drug evidence to make sure that the incident will not happen again. The procedure will now include better sealing and new protocols for containment.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, supposedly intended for treating severe pain, is very potent. It is 50 times more potent than heroin. Inhaling or absorbing tiny amounts of the drug through the skin can be very dangerous and may even be deadly. A puff of it is enough to send an adult to the emergency room.
Fentanyl does not just pose risk to addicts who use it. The drug can also harm people who may accidentally touch or breathe tiny amounts of it. Responders of overdose cases, as well as police and forensic lab technicians, are particularly at risk.
The fentanyl spill highlights the dangers that these people face when they handle drug evidence and help revive overdose victims.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has earlier issued safety advice for people on the forefront of the opioid epidemic.
"If at all possible do not take samples if fentanyl is suspected. Taking samples or opening a package could stir up the powder. If you must take a sample, use gloves (no bare skin contact) and a dust mask or air purifying respirator (APR) if handling a sample, or a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for a suspected lab," the agency advised law enforcement officers.
"If you have reason to believe an exhibit contains fentanyl, it is prudent to not field test it."