Preventing Occupational Exposure to Illicit Drugs

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) with the Fredericksburg, Virginia police and fire departments have put out a video on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The video stresses the need for proactive steps to be taken by responders when on a call that involves illicit substances. It shows what can happen when a responder is exposed to illicit drugs like fentanyl and provides recommendations on how responders can prevent it from happening.

Watch it below, or at the CDC YouTube channel.

To reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure while handling or testing fentanyl or other illicit substances first responders should take the following steps at a minimum: 

  • Avoid testing drugs in the field; instead, transport to a laboratory.  
  • Use respiratory protection, gloves, boot covers, and eye protection. Make sure to cover all exposed skin as well.  
  • Avoid opening/closing suspicious bags or containers; this will reduce airborne dispersal of substance during a sweep. 
  • Carry an adequate supply of naloxone  
  • Create a system to help you decontaminate after exposure: Do not store or wear turnout gear back to the station after a fire, or call involving illicit substances in the living areas or in your personal vehicle. 
  • Wear full PPE, even during routine calls.  
Learn more at the CDC website.

Citation:  NIOSH [2019]. Illicit Drugs, Including Fentanyl: Preventing Occupational Exposure to Emergency Responders. By Hornsby-Myers J, Headley T, Dowell, C. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2019-126,  

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