thesynergist | COMMUNITY

Opioids Working Group Makes Headway
BY PETER HARNETT

The AIHA Opioids Responder Working Group formed in October 2017 and now has five subgroups working on a variety of projects. These subgroups are developing an opioids response card for first responders at locations where powders are present; a resource list of important websites and documents relevant to opioid response; outreach and training; and an AIHce roundtable. The newest subgroup is addressing issues related to opioid use in the workplace. The working group’s primary emphasis has been on protecting responders—police, EMS, and healthcare workers—so they can continue working to stop illicit opioid operations and attend to overdoses. The responder community includes other workers who may be exposed to opioids, including forensic analysts, hospital personnel, and remediation cleanup personnel. The working group comprises 27 members from federal agencies such as NIOSH, EPA, and DHS/Customs and Border Patrol (CBP); the U.S. Army; Michigan State Police Safety; New York City Police Safety; and an analytical laboratory. The group also includes former pharmaceutical personnel and consultants, and government contractors. One member in California has been involved in legislative efforts and remediation of properties contaminated by illicit or clandestine opioid activities. He is working with state legislatures and members of Congress to draft legislation that would include a critical role for industrial hygienists in the characterization and remediation of opioid-contaminated sites. The working group chair and Mark Ames, AIHA’s director of Government Relations, are also involved in these efforts. An important strength of the working group is its near real-time sharing of new developments regarding responder safety issues, cleanup, and remediation. For example, a member who directs EPA’s studies on decontamination and cleanup recently presented results that were shared in near real-time with working group members, four of whom are involved in opioid site remediation. Another member from DHS/CBP discussed analyses of opioid drugs seized at the border, post offices, and shipping/receiving companies. According to these analyses, much of the fentanyl coming to the U.S. is from China, and some of the new fentanyl analogs showing up on American streets are newly synthesized compounds. This complicates the work of the responder, who may respond to an incident where an unknown, particularly potent fentanyl product is present. Individuals who are interested in getting involved in AIHA’s opioid efforts should email Peter Harnett, attend the working group’s AIHce presentations, and visit the group’s page on Catalyst. Peter Harnett is chair of the Opioids Responder Working Group.