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Photo: NIOSH

New NIOSH toolkit designed to protect first responders from illicit drug exposure

October 29, 2019

Washington — A new virtual toolkit from NIOSH is intended to help protect first responders from exposure to illicit drugs, including fentanyl – a synthetic opioid considered up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

The free resource features shareable training videos, infographics and postcards for first responders, who are at risk of exposure to illicit drugs through inhalation; ingestion; mucous membrane contact via the nose, eyes and mouth; skin contact; and needlesticks, NIOSH states. Exposure can trigger lightheadedness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and the rapid onset of life-threatening respiratory depression.


The toolkit provides several recommendations for limiting exposure:

  • Wear proper personal protective equipment.
  • Keep emergency services on standby.
  • Contact hazmat responders or Drug Enforcement Administration officials should large quantities of suspected illicit drug products be visible.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth if you suspect the presence of illegal drugs. Also, refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and using hand sanitizer and the bathroom.