Delco announces protective tools against

deadly carfentanil exposure

Delaware County Heroin Task Force announces newest tool and protective measures for police and first responders to prevent exposure to deadly drugs that can kill at contact

Every day, law enforcement officers are faced with unknown suspicious substances that require immediate identification for both investigative purposes, and also to ensure their own personal safety.

With reports of carfentanil showing up in bordering counties and the Philadelphia area, Delaware County officials are taking preventive steps and extra measures to protect first responders and police from exposure to the extremely deadly drug which can result in accidental overdose and even death. As the first in the region, the District Attorney's Criminal Investigation Division now has a laser narcotics detection machine, known as the Progeny™ ResQ™ 1064nm handheld Raman analyzer, that can identify dangerous opioids from a far, so first responders do not have to come in contact with the drugs.

District Attorney Jack Whelan, Delaware County Council Chairman Mario Civera, Jr. and Councilman Dave White, co-chair of the Delaware County Heroin Task Force, were joined by Delaware County Senior Medical Advisor Dr. George Avetian, members of the Heroin Task Force and Haverford Police Chief John Viola to make the announcement Nov. 1, at the Haverford Police Department.

Now available to local police departments as part of the CID Crime Scene and Bomb Square Unit, the Progeny ResQ 1064nm handheld Raman provides law enforcement a cutting edge chemical identification tool, and narcotics classification in a fast and simple handheld form. Faced with increasingly sophisticated chemical threats including carfentanil exposure, the Progeny ResQ provides users the ability to detect explosive threats quickly and accurately, identify a wide range of narcotics and illegal drugs and respond to suspicious hazardous materials that risk public safety.

So far in 2017 in Delaware County, there have been a total of 185 drug deaths, with 162 being opioid-related, 113 fentanyl related with three confirmed cases of 3-Methylfentanyl.

Fentanyl and carfentanil pose a potential hazard to law enforcement, public health workers, and first responders who could unknowingly come into contact with these drugs in their different forms. Carfentanil is a tranquilizer that is used to sedate large animals such as elephants, and is reportedly 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, the opioid painkiller that is growing more common than heroin around the region. Both can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled and just a small amount can be lethal.

During the course of law enforcement activities and in response to overdoses, first responders and law enforcement personnel are now routinely coming into contact with these dangerous drugs.

In a report, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned that some illicit synthetic opioids are so toxic that non-users and emergency responders are at risk of an overdose through inhalation and/or skin exposure. Police and first responders in Delaware County are trained and equipped to recognize the hazard of these drugs, and are equipped with gloves and masks for protection.

Additionally, Delaware County Council is providing KC Fluidshield PFR95 masks to police and first responders which were made available to the county at no cost by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with nitrile gloves for protection.

In 2014, the District Attorney and Delaware County Council through the Heroin Task Force equipped every police officer in Delaware County with Narcan also known as naloxone. To date police officers across Delaware County have saved more than 921 lives. In addition to being trained on the dangers of fentanyl and being equipped with Narcan, first responders and officers will now have protective masks to prevent exposure from inhalation.

"Unfortunately, responding to assist overdose victims has become a daily part of the life-saving efforts of our police and first responders," said District Attorney Jack Whelan. "As a result, these men and women have become vulnerable to the exposure of these dangerous drugs which is why we are providing these protective measures for their safety. County Council is commitment to continue equipping our police with the necessary tools so they can do their job safely and effectively."

"In 2012 Delaware County Council partnered with our DA to form the Delaware County Heroin Task Force when we first saw that heroin was taking so many lives," said Councilman Dave White. "Since then we've made many strides to combat this epidemic. Our first responders are on the front line in the battle and we want to make sure they are protected if and when them come into contact with these incredibly deadly opioids."

On July 14, the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology issued a joint statement on Preventing Occupational Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analog Exposure to First Responders that states the risk of clinically significant exposure to emergency responders is possible but still considered extremely low. "To date, we have not seen reports of emergency responders in Delaware County developing signs or symptoms consistent with opioid toxicity from incidental contact with opioids," said Dr. George Avetian, Senior Medical Advisor. "However, if this does occur, these masks are one precautionary step we are taking to protect our first responders in addition to other recommended protective measures including Nitrile gloves."