Three Baltimore County police officers were treated and released from the hospital after they were exposed to fentanyl, prompting the evacuation of the Woodlawn precinct Thursday night, the department said.
Police said the officers became ill after a traffic stop that resulted in two arrests and narcotics recovered. The arresting officer returned to the Woodlawn precinct in the 5400 block of Windsor Mill Road about 11 p.m. when the officer and another officer became ill while processing a white powdered substance obtained during the arrest, the department said.
Both officers received immediate medical attention from other officers at the precinct and Fire Department medical personnel. Police said a third officer later became ill and was also treated. All three officers were taken to a local hospital for treatment and were released.
The officers’ exposure wasn’t-life threatening, said Police Department spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson. The precinct was reopened about 11 a.m. Friday, after the department’s hazardous device team responded to clean the officers’ equipment. A private company was called to decontaminate the precinct building and the officers’ cars, Vinson said.
He did not know what prompted the initial traffic stop, but said the officers confirmed that the two occupants of the car had open warrants and arrested them. During a search of the vehicle, Vinson said the officers found narcotics, which were then taken back to the precinct to be packaged as evidence.
The arrestees were also searched and additional drugs were found, Vinson said. They were not exposed, and did not have to be medically treated, he said.
The Baltimore County Fire Department’s hazardous materials team confirmed that the officers had come into contact with fentanyl, prompting the evacuation.
Vinson said the evacuation did not affect services, but two prisoners who had been at the precinct were transported to the Wilkens precinct, and the two individuals arrested during the traffic stop were taken to the Pikesville precinct.
Earlier this year, a Harford County deputy and two paramedics were treated for potential exposure to heroin and fentanyl after responding to a drug overdose in Abingdon. The deputy was treated for symptoms typical of opioid exposure and was given the opioid-reversing drug Narcan, Harford County officials said. The two paramedics did not require Narcan.
Vinson would not say whether the county officers were treated with Narcan, saying it is part of their medical record.
Similar exposures have been reported among officers and other first responders nationwide. Last year, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration warned police departments about the dangers of fentanyl exposure to officers in the field. A person only has to touch or come close enough to the small grains of fentanyl or carfentanil, which are much more powerful than heroin, to become ill. Exposure can cause overdose symptoms or death.
Baltimore County police require officers to take precautions, such as wearing gloves, when dealing with unknown powdery substances.
Vinson said there have been two other minor exposures to county officers in the the past year. He said those exposures did not result in any injuries.
There were 1,029 opioid-related deaths in Maryland through June, up from 873 at the same time last year, according to the state health department. Baltimore County had 163 deaths through June, up from 159 in the first half of 2016.