Evaluation of occupational exposures to illicit drugs at controlled substances laboratories
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Evaluation of occupational exposures to illicit drugs at controlled substances laboratories

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      "The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a police forensic sciences division concerning the potential for unintentional occupational exposure to illicit drugs among employees working in controlled substances laboratories. The police forensic sciences division operated three controlled substances laboratories, each serving a specific geographic region within the state. During our site visits to each of the three laboratories, we measured forensic laboratory chemists' exposures to cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine in air, on hands, and on surfaces in the forensic chemistry laboratories and in office areas; assessed the fume hoods and the airflow between laboratory areas, hallways, and office areas; held confidential medical interviews; and reviewed relevant records including safety and health program documents, facility floor plans and maintenance reports, and laboratory surface sampling results completed prior to our visits. Interviewed employees did not report any exposure incidents or symptoms that could be related to handling cocaine, methamphetamine, or opioids at work in the previous three months. However, we found detectable levels of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine in the air, on surfaces, and on hands. Work practices and conditions such as fume hood average face velocities not meeting guidelines, working with unknown powders without engineering controls or local exhaust ventilation, and dry sweeping floors and dry wiping laboratory surfaces, may contribute to unintentional employee exposures to cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine. On the basis of recommendations we provided after our first visit, the laboratories made personal protective equipment-related improvements including providing additional training on how to correctly don and doff N95 filtering facepiece respirators, qualitatively fit testing all forensic laboratory chemists, enforcing eye protection use while working in the laboratory spaces, and removing all latex gloves from the laboratories. Additional recommendations included adding enclosed or semi-enclosed ventilated workstations, improving the current fume hood maintenance plan, updating laboratory protocols for handling and analysis of controlled substances, improving the facility respiratory protection program, updating laboratory cleaning protocols, and training employees on protocols to improve employee safety including hands-on naloxone use training to employees with a training version of the naloxone delivery device." - NIOSHTIC-2

      NIOSHTC no. 20058390

      Recommended citation: NIOSH [2019]. Evaluation of occupational exposures to illicit drugs at controlled substances laboratories. By Broadwater KR, Jackson DA, Li JF. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2018-0090-3366, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2018-0090-3366.pdf


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