Dangers of Fentanyl in Homeless Encampments: Why Professional Cleanup with Proper PPE is Critical
There is no doubt fentanyl, a highly addictive drug, has been driving the American homeless overdose crisis in the recent past, causing severe injuries and death in its wake. In 2022, over 200 homeless San Diegans died from opioid fentanyl overdoses, with similar scenes repeated across the region.
Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or eyes, inhaled through the nose or mouth, or ingested orally, making it one of the most potent substances in homeless encampments. Accidental exposure to small amounts can cause extreme health-related complications, respiratory depression, and fatalities.
This blog discusses the dangers of fentanyl in homeless encampments and how cleanup with proper PPE can help alleviate hazards.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid with nearly double the potency level of morphine. Although it's a prescription drug, fentanyl is also made and used illegally for leisure purposes. The illegally used fentanyl is peddled as a powder, made into pills, nasal sprays, put in eye droppers, or dropped onto blotter paper,
Drug dealers can also mix fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine. Common drugs sold on the streets may contain potent levels of fentanyl, and one may not be able to see, taste or smell it. Without lab testing, it is quite challenging for people to know whether the drugs they are using have been laced with fentanyl.
The symptoms of fentanyl intoxication include:
● Respiratory depression or arrest
● Pinpoint pupils
● Loss of consciousness
Dangers of Fentanyl in Homeless Encampments
Homeless encampments are typically poorly ventilated, increasing the risk of accidental fentanyl exposure among non-users. Residents can be exposed to fentanyl in one of five ways, including skin contact, inhalation, ingestion with a needle stick, or contact with a mucous membrane in the nose or eyes.
With time the drug causes both short-term and long-term effects, including addiction. Taking an excessive amount of fentanyl can lead to severe and life-threatening overdoses with adverse health effects, including:
● Respiratory depression: When a person is exposed to fentanyl, their breathing can slow or stop. If this happens, the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain decreases, causing a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia can lead to other debilitating health problems, including a coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.
● Drowsiness: Fentanyl overdose can make people sleepy, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries among the homeless.
● Confusion: Like other opioid analgesics, fentanyl produces cognitive and physical impairments such as confusion, impacting one's ability to reason critically and make sound judgment.
● Unconsciousness: An overdose of fentanyl can cause severe breathing problems and unconsciousness. New studies found that fentanyl can stop a person's breathing minutes before they lose consciousness.
● Addiction: Experts reveal fentanyl is highly addictive and should only be used when absolutely necessary.
● Coma and death: Coma, death, and seizures are the most dangerous effects of a fentanyl overdose. Comas and seizures are primarily due to the brain being deprived of oxygen. When a user's respiration rate drops below 12 breaths per minute, the brain will not get enough oxygen, putting someone at risk for a brain injury.
Why Professional Cleanup Is Necessary
An effective way to reduce fentanyl exposure in homeless encampments is through proper professional cleanup exercises. Experts recommend professionals with hazardous waste training and proper PPE to clean up properties where a visible amount of fentanyl-containing powder or liquid is present. The following are some of the tools that professionals use to clean up fentanyl in homeless encampments:
● Face shield: Fentanyl can be absorbed into the body via the mucous membrane in the eyes. To prevent splash exposure during the cleanup, professionals wear a face shield and other similar PPE, such as masks and Goggles.
● Respiratory protection: Fentanyl is known to evaporate very poorly. Fentanyl on hard surfaces can evaporate and get into the air to harmful levels. During cleanup exercises, professionals use adequate respiratory protective equipment such as a fit-tested N95 mask. They also use a HEPA-filtered vacuum to vacuum carpets, upholstery, and fabric surfaces.
● Skin protection: Skin protective equipment such as nitrile gloves offers an adequate protective barrier to prevent skin exposure during the cleanup exercises. Disposable nitrile gloves have high durability and greater chemical resistance, making them the go-to disposable gloves for cleanup and disinfection exercises.
Get Professional Cleanup and Biohazard Decontamination Today
The consequences of fentanyl exposure can be deadly, especially for the homeless living in debilitating conditions. Fentanyl can be absorbed into the body through various mediums, including skin contact, inhalation, ingestion, and contact with a mucous membrane. Even small amounts of fentanyl present in homeless encampments can result in severe health complications among residents, including non-users.
Professional cleanup in encampments exposed to fentanyl can help alleviate risks of exposure. Bio-One Tucson offers effective cleanup and biohazard decontamination solutions in Tucson and the surrounding areas. We leverage our training, skills, experience, and top-notch technologies to undertake thorough cleanups. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.