Friday, August 24, 2012

Avoiding chemical and mold exposures in drug evidence rooms - Part II

Tips for officers in evidence rooms
to minimize exposures to toxins.
Storing drugs in evidence rooms and drug vaults at law enforcement agencies poses a significant health risks for the employees in charge of retrieval, maintenance and disposal.

They could be exposed to drug particles, chemical fumes, volatile organic compounds, mold spores, mold mycotoxins (terpenes) and many other contaminants.

While exposure levels may be low, inhaling these types of indoor air pollutants over an extended period of time may become a health risk.

There have been complaints from police officers ranging from respiratory problems to fatigue and anxiety, among many others (see Part I).

Based on case studies and health hazard evaluations, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has put together some general recommendations for drug evidence rooms:

  1. Keep drug quantities under control. Frequent disposal of drugs can reduce the chances of exposure and off-gassing materials.
  2. Make sure marijuana and other plant-based drugs are dried properly and set up a drying chamber inside the evidence room, if needed.
  3. Use chemical and particle filters (activated carbon and HEPA) in the evidence room and ensure that filters are replaced regularly.
  4. Have the HVAC (especially the ventilation) system inspected by a ventilation engineer and make improvements, if necessary.
  5. Store dried marijuana in sealed plastic bags. If they need to be stored in ventilated cardboard boxes, they should be in an enclosed area in the evidence room with exhaust ventilation to contain odors.
  6. Seal synthetic drugs in plastic.
  7. Keep a relative humidity level of 30-50% to minimize mold growth.
  8. Keep the evidence room clean and well maintained, using environmentally friendly and non-toxic cleaners, gloves and vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.
  9. Improve organization and avoid clutter.
  10. Use a cart to transport evidence.
  11. Avoid skin contact with marijuana as well as other drugs and evidence materials to reduce the potential for irritation and allergic reactions.
  12. Alert employees of possible risks and open channels of communication to address problems quickly and efficiently.
  13. Develop written policies and standard operating procedures and train employees accordingly.

Source: Evidence Technology Magazine

Carbon and HEPA air filters for mold, chemicals and odors

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