Nursing Study: First Responders Face Serious Health
Risks from Meth Labs
According to an article that appeared in Journal of
Addictions Nursing in November, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
researchers Diane McFadden, Joan Kub and Sheila Fitzgerald
find that first responders — police officers,
firefighters and emergency services personnel — who
come in contact with clandestine methamphetamine labs in
the course of their job are at risk for numerous health
Under the best of circumstances, the highly toxic
atmospheres present health risks to personnel entering the
premises, but because 20 percent to 30 percent of
methamphetamine labs are discovered due to fires or
explosions, the atmosphere becomes even more dangerous.
Through a review of literature and discussions with first
responders, the authors determined that too often on
entering the labs, first responders who are not using
protective equipment or wearing protective clothing are
exposed to chemicals that can cause lung damage, eye and
respiratory irritation and burns.
The authors also point out that nurses and other staff
in emergency departments risk secondary exposure if victims
are not properly decontaminated before transport. The
article offers prevention strategies but cautions that even
in planned raids, hazmat firefighters and law enforcement
personnel cannot fully predict the chemical hazards of
exposure because the ingredients and methamphetamine
production methods vary.
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