The Opioid Crisis: Global PPE Recommendations for First Responders Protection from Fentanyl Compounds

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By Don Groce
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The Opioid Crisis: Global PPE Recommendations for First Responders Protection from Fentanyl Compounds

With the Opioid epidemic spreading across our country, law enforcement and EMS personnel are facing a new danger. Synthetic Opioids are highly toxic organic solid compounds found as powders, liquids, nasal sprays and pills. Many reports of overdose from incidental contact have created an outcry for protection protocols for first responders.

Most experts agree that absorption through the skin does not present the same level of danger as inhalation or absorption across a mucous membrane such as the eye or nasal route.

Fentanyl powders are small enough to be easily aerosolized and airborne and can easily enter the respiratory system. As with almost every toxicant, the respiratory route is the most dangerous route of exposure with almost immediate absorption into the bloodstream of practically 100% of what is inhaled.

This can be an especially hazardous scenario when an officer is investigating a crime scene and sees and opens a suspicious baggie or container or brushes powder from a hard surface. Containers should not be opened except under controlled conditions since the danger from aerosolized Fentanyl powder being inhaled is so serious.

The amount of absorption of Fentanyl is 30 times higher across mucous membranes than intact skin. Therefore, protective eyewear such as Bullhead Safety Goggles (BH181AF) should be worn at all times during a crime scene investigation where significant quantities of Fentanyl may be present.

The Interagency Board for Emergency Preparedness in Washington DC recommends that for Fentanyl: “Use of proper personal protective equipment and standard safe work practices to prevent inhalation of powders and to minimize direct skin contact with residues should be instituted as soon as the potential presence of such materials is suspected.”

The PPE recommended by the Interagency Board and other notable groups includes:

  • Respirators should be worn when there is a moderate risk where visible powder is present. The recommended respirator is a NIOSH approved N95 or P100.
  • Uniforms: IAB recommends that a uniform and full skin coverage be worn when visible powder or liquid is present. This could be Frog Wear® SMS Coverall NW-SMS300COV with shoe covers such as NW-SC63 OR NW-PPSC.
  • Gloves: IAB states that Nitrile single use examination gloves should ALWAYS be worn. Although, the IAB does not mention double gloving, the MSDS from Pfizer for Fentanyl Citrate does recommend double gloving with disposable Nitrile gloves.

Global Glove Panther Guard Medical Exam Grade
Both Glove styles feature:

  • Powder Free Gloves

  • Aloe Infused inside for Hand Health


Recommended Double Gloving Standard Practice
NWS-SMS300COV Coverall Global Glove Frog Wear SMS Coverall


Wear whenever Powder is seen or suspected.

This garment provides full coverage of clothing so that no Fentanyl powder is inadvertently carried home on clothing.
Bullhead Safety Goggle BH181AF BH181AF: Same with Anti-Fog lens feature

These should be worn by First Responders whenever powder is seen or suspected to protect mucous membrane of the eye.
NW-S63 and NW-PPSC Shoe Covers Global Glove Frog Wear Shoe Covers

Always wear before entering where Fentanyl Powder is suspected to keep from tracking powder from the scene.

Keeping First Responders safe from exposure to illicit drugs and other hazards are a daily part of what we do at Global Glove and Safety. We have the products that offer excellent protection from the hazards at hand.

2 years ago
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