Suspicious White Powder: It’s Not Just an Anthrax Threat
If you are watching the headlines it is getting more and more apparent that “suspicious white powder” is a legitimate concern and a rising threat. The numbers are on the rise, consistently in the news and yet these events seem to go by without any significant change to policy. Today, whether it is inmates sending a hoax package with white powder to a district attorney or three staff members in a prison falling ill due to exposure to an unknown substance in the mailroom, we need to start a conversation.
However, scary myths are on the rise as well. Fentanyl, for example, is not normally an immediate threat to first responders, hospital employees, or mail handlers as long as control methods are in place. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin exposure to a controlled substance, such as fentanyl, is not necessarily an immediate risk. This risk drops quickly especially if personal protective equipment(PPE) is in use.
What are the possible threats for opioids in, for example, a mailroom?
An accidental exposure to an opioid in a mailroom displays itself at varying levels. Based on the amount of exposure an individual might feel respiratory distress, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, loss of sensation and loss of consciousness. The primary methods of transmission are:
-Skin or dermal transfer is a low risk and requires prolonged exposure to harm an adult -Inhalation is not common outside of first responders but can happen if the opioid is disturbed or dropped and becomes airborne. -Ingestion or injection is not that common in a mailroom and by keeping up safety protocols stays at a low threat.
What should you do if you get exposed?
- Immediately place the item down and do not touch anything
- Leave the area and warn anyone else of the threat as well as your security
- Wash your hands first, other exposed areas and then face with warm soapy water.
- Change clothes, place them in plastic bags and seek medical attention
What can you do about it?
First and foremost, some personal protective equipment is the easiest way to defend those in contact from what comes through the mailstream. Wearing nitrile gloves and a simple but effective dust mask reduces the threat as exposure historically is through absorption and inhalation.
Second is vigilance in the standards in which mail is screened, whether in a personal setting or in the office place. Mail important enough that it that meets the criteria for screening should be continually searched for known threat cues and with standard procedures.
Finally, ask to join our LinkedIn Mail Screening Device Group, RaySecur Inc., that discusses the latest threats and the best mitigation techniques as new threats arise. Others are having the same issues and concerns, Raysecur just wants a place to talk about them to look for answers.