1 year ago

Protection against the opioid compounds fentanyl and carfentanil.

We all know that the opioid epidemic is in a catastrophic state and many people are turning to these compounds when prescription drugs are no longer available for use.

Today, I would like to discuss a very important issue that we’re dealing with at Kappler. The issue is trying to provide protection against the opioid compounds fentanyl and carfentanil. The level of related incidents that have occurred in the US over the last several months is astounding. We all know that the opioid epidemic is in a catastrophic state and many people are turning to these compounds when prescription drugs are no longer available for use.

Many people have asked recently, “What would you recommend if I have to do a fentanyl or carfentanil entry or cleanup?” I’ve gone back to the guidance that has been provided by the EPA, CDC and NIOSH. They have outlined the EPA levels of protection as guidance for responding to these compounds. What they recommend first is if you’re going into an unknown situation like any Hazmat response, Level A protection is required. After the compounds have been identified and the scene is more stable, they recommend that you downgrade to a Level B or Level C garment. When they talk about these levels they refer to them as modified Level B or modified Level C.  

This basically means they are using tape to interface the components that go with the protective garment. We know that Zytron and ProVent fabrics and seams provide an effective barrier to opioid powder compounds. However, the problem is that when you interface the components such as gloves and respirator face pieces, the taping of the interface is critical. When you donn this garment made from impermeable fabric and you are doing motions like squatting or bending over, you create positive and negative pressure areas, which could literally suck the powder inside the garment. This is not a good situation. We have to be very careful when we talk about recommending garments for these applications. 

I can cite numerous recent examples of departments doing fentanyl responses and wearing Level A garments for entry and cleanup. Other people say that’s too much protection for this scenario or application. But we have to ask ourselves, is it too much? That is basically what the EPA, CDC and NIOSH are recommending. I have had recent discussions with people that are involved with the Interagency Board (IAB) and I’ve been told that they are going to provide some new guidance in the future which may be less conservative than the guidance that is out there today. We will wait for this guidance and follow up on this topic.