Lawrence, MA – Three Lawrence police officers were exposed to a substance believed to be the powerful opioid fentanyl on Monday.
Lawrence Police Officers Richard Brooks, Leo Silvera, and Philip Hendricks, said they felt lightheaded and complained of a funny taste in their mouths after responding to a disturbance call in an apartment at 30 Summer St. just after 7 p.m. on Dec. 11, the Eagle-Tribune reported.
The woman who lived at the apartment told police her son was selling drugs out of the home, and gave consent for officers to search, according to Lawrence Police Detective Thomas Cuddy.
During the search, Officers Brooks, Silvera, and Hendricks came into contact with the substance, began to feel sick, and were taken to Lawrence General Hospital as a precaution, according to the New York Post.
The substance was being tested to determine whether it contained fentanyl.
“We’re not sure exactly what the substance is, but the transport was more precautionary than anything else,” Det. Cuddy said.
The officers were treated and released.
“All three finished their shift after, so it was a happy ending after all,” he said.
Det. Cuddy said that the Lawrence Police Department has increased drug training due to the opioid epidemic.
In August, three Chelsea police officers were transported to the hospital and treated for fentanyl exposure after responding to a car accident.
Doctors said the officers inhaled the drug once it was airborne in the van, WTNH reported.
Following that incident, the Massachusetts Municipal Police
Training Committee issued a medical advisory for law enforcement about the
dangers of carfentanil and fentanyl exposure.
“There is a significant threat to law enforcement personnel, and other first responders, who may come in contact with Fentanyl or Carfentanil through regular law enforcement activities. Since these two drugs can be ingested orally, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin or eyes, any substance suspected to contain Fentanyl or Carfentanil should be treated with extreme caution as exposure to a small amount can lead to significant health-related complications, respiratory distress, or death,” the advisory said.
The state offered safety recommendations for handling wrapped or contained substances believed to be Carfentanil or Fentanyl, as well as recommendations for amounts of Narcan to be carried in communities where the drugs’ presence has been confirmed, instructions on treating a scene as a hazardous material incident, and what to do if an officer has been exposed to either drug.
In response to their own fentanyl incident, the Boston Herald reported that the Chelsea Police Department had invested in masks, glasses and gloves for all of its police vehicles, as well as jugs of water that could be used for emergency washing.
Police and researchers agree that alcohol-based hand sanitizers could exacerbate the risks of opioids coming in contact with skin.
Other Massachusetts departments have taken precautions as well. The Fitchburg Police Department outfitted all of its cruisers with filtered masks, gloves, a protective jumpsuit, and protective eyewear more than a year ago.