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By Steve Birr
A police officer involved in a roadside heroin bust Friday overdosed an hour later and had to be revived after fentanyl powder went airborne and absorbed through his skin.
Officer Chris Green, a member of the East Liverpool Police Department in Ohio, assisted in a traffic stop with other officers who had boxed in a vehicle suspected of running drugs. The suspects attempted to flee, but first tried to dispose of their narcotics by dumping the drugs out in the vehicle, leaving, “white powder on the seat, on the floor, on the guys’ shoes and on his clothing,” reports WSB-TV.
Green led a search of the vehicle and got powder all over his uniform. An hour later, back at the police station, Green passed out and became unresponsive. Fellow officers suspected he was suffering an overdose from fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, which can be absorbed through the skin. It took emergency responders multiple attempts to revive Green.
“They gave him one dose of Narcan here and then transported him to East Liverpool City Hospital, where they gave him three additional doses of Narcan,” East Liverpool Capt. Patrick Wright told WSB-TV. “We changed our procedures to where we used to field test-drugs. We don’t do that any longer because of accidental exposures.”
Less than half a teaspoon of pure fentanyl is enough to kill 10 people.
The presence of powerful substances like fentanyl is a major problem for police across the country conducting drug raids. In the chaos of a major drug bust, the powder can go airborne, poisoning officers exposed. Like the East Liverpool Police Department, police across the country are now cautioned to avoid field-testing due to the risk of exposure to potent ingredients.
Ohio is being hit particularly hard by the national opioid epidemic, which claimed a record 33,000 lives in the U.S. in 2015. The opioid death rate in the state spiked 13 percent between 2014 and 2015, among the largest increases in the country. Heroin deaths increased by nearly 20 percent over the same period, claiming 1,444 lives.
The epidemic is posing risks to kids who are exposed to the drugs and other dangers by their parents. Officials in Ohio say opioids are the main driver of a 19 percent spike in the number of kids removed from parental custody to foster care since 2010.