MARTINS FERRY, Ohio — As the use of synthetic opioids and number of subsequent overdoses continues to rise, an Ohio county coroner's office is sending a warning to all fire, EMS, and law enforcement agencies: Throw away your latex gloves.
It's suspected that latex gloves may allow absorption into your tissue, turning the rescuer into the victim.
Martins Ferry Fire and EMS Department Assistant Chief Jack Regis says their first responders received four overdose emergency calls within a 4 or 5-hour span several weeks ago.
"I would say probably 40 percent of our calls now are for overdose," Regis said.
The number of overdoses is coupled with news that stronger street drugs are being laced with synthetics, like Carfentanil, an opioid 5,000 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
Carfentanil is a large animal tranquilizer, and it was never meant to be consumed by humans. Just a few milligrams -- a tiny pinch -- of Carfentanil is used to put down an elephant.
Imagine the effect it has on humans.
The threat of accidental exposure from Carfentanil, and fentanyl as well, has many police officers, firefighters and EMTs on edge.
Authorities are now turning the focus to equipment. Regis says their department has already made the switch from the classic latex glove to nitrile, a synthetic material that’s a little thicker and provides more protection.
In late 2016, the state of Ohio was named as having the most Carfentanil seizures in the entire United States.
"We need to take all the protections necessary to protect ourselves because, at the end of the day, we want to go home to our families and not become a victim ourselves," Regis said.
Officials are also suggesting first responders begin wearing masks in addition to nitrile gloves as part of their new, standard practice.