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MADISON, Wis. - The Madison Police Department has changed the protocol used for dealing with suspected drugs being processed into evidence.
The change is being made to improve officer safety and prevent exposure to dangerous drugs.
Officers are now required to wear protective gloves, eye protection and masks when handling suspected drugs. They also must have a second officer with them, who could administer naloxone if an overdose occurs.
Naloxone is an agent that can revive an individual who has overdosed on an opioid.
"The big thing is that even though this might be my evidence to process, I will have a partner in the property room specifically to be the safety coach," said David Dexheimer, an officer with the Madison Police Department.
Exposure to fentanyl sent 18 Pittsburgh police officers to the hospital on Wednesday. The officers were conducting a raid on a home when a table was knocked over and the fentanyl on the table became airborne. The officers were treated and released from an area hospital.
Fentanyl is an opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
"Fentanyl came into the picture as a highly hazardous and highly toxic substance. It is a little difficult to deal with because you don't know when or where it will be coming from," said Dexheimer.
Proof of that was seen in East Liverpool, Ohio in May. During a traffic stop a police officer was exposed to fentanyl that was on the floor of suspects' vehicle. He collapsed from the overdose and four doses of Naloxone were needed to save his life.
The incident pointed to broad threat fentanyl and other dangerous drugs pose to law enforcement officers on a daily basis.