Good Question: Can one touch expose you to deadly drugs?

August 22, 2017 06:15 AM

Are you at risk of being exposed to powerful and deadly painkillers without even knowing it? 

A viewer asked this question after an incident in Ohio.  A police officer there was rushed to the hospital after he says he touched powder which was determined to be the powerful painkiller fentanyl.

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Alan Lane asked Pat Taney if simply touching this stuff on things left behind by drug users, like let’s say on cash, can put you at risk unknowingly?

Officer Chris Green is with the East Liverpool Ohio Police Department.

"I was notified I had something on my shirt,” says Officer Green.

That something was the painkiller fentanyl on his shirt after busting two suspects for having it in their car. He brushed it off, and within minutes he went down.

Officer Green was given Narcan after concerns he overdosed - again he says, from one simple touch.

So if it's that powerful, should you be worried?

“There is a lot of concern and hysteria over fentanyl,” says Dr. Timothy Weigand with URMC. He is also on the Board of Directors for the American College of Medical Toxicology. He's getting bombarded with similar questions.

According to Dr. Wiegand, the average person shouldn't worry.

“Just simply touching the fentanyl or fentanyl analogues one is not going to get sick you will have to have sustained contact to significant amounts for a long period of time.” Dr. Wiegand says.

He suspects, along with the CDC, the Ohio officer may have unknowingly inhaled some of the powder.

“Fentanyl gets into our body through the lungs. Just simply touching the fentanyl or the drug residue, I am skeptical that it would occur that way.”

Still, if you do touch the stuff, Dr. Wiegand says take precautions.

“Just simply wash your hands and decontaminate the surface that you got the drug on.”

The American College of Medical Toxicology along with the CDC recommend police officers and emergency workers use gloves before handling any powder. Many local departments are already doing that.


Pat Taney

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