Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chemical and mold exposure an occupational risk in law enforcement – Part I

Improperly dried or stored marijuana can expose police
officers to mold spores and chemicals.
Working in an evidence room at any law enforcement agency can be an occupational health risk, industrial hygienists warn.

For crimes that involve drugs, police officers need to store evidence in a drug vault, and in most cases, indoor air quality suffers.

Synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine can emit dangerous chemical fumes, while plant-based drugs such as marijuana are susceptible to mold growth and often expose officers to Aspergillus mold spores. Marijuana also produces volatile organic compounds called terpenes that contribute to the drug’s taste and smell.

Employees may have to spend several hours each day in the evidence room, receiving, storing and retrieving evidence, transporting drugs and other materials, maintaining inventory, and getting evidence ready for disposal. These activities can expose them to drug particles, mold spores, volatile chemicals from drugs as well as from “air freshening” products.

Occupational Safety and Health intervention may become necessary if the evidence room employees start exhibiting health symptoms related to exposure, which may include:
  • Nose bleeds
  • Respiratory problems
  • Skin rashes
  • Memory fog
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Vision problems
  • Burning eyes
  • Facial twitches

Some employees show higher sensitivities to chemicals and molds than other employees, and while some people may experience symptoms right away, it may take years for others to develop any health effects.

The risks of exposures to certain drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine at high levels is well known, but low level exposures over extended periods of time have not been researched, occupational hygienists say.

However, there is limited evidence linking low levels of indirect drug exposures to acute or chronic health effects, there are reports in the scientific literature of people experiencing skin rash from occupational exposure and handling of marijuana plants and materials, with symptoms increasing over time with ongoing exposure (Majmudar et al., 2006; Williams et al., 2008).

Source: Evidence Technology Magazine

Air cleaners for evidence rooms and drug vaults
Electrocorp's RSU series combines
the most efficient air filters.

Electrocorp has developed portable and powerful air cleaners for law enforcement agencies, which can remove harmful chemicals, odors, volatile organic compounds, fumes, gases, fine particles, dust, mold spores, mold mycotoxins, bacteria and viruses from the ambient air.

The air cleaners boast a multistage air filtration system with a a deep-bed activated carbon filter, a HEPA filter, pre-filters and UV germicidal filtration (optional) to provide cleaner and healthier air throughout.

Electrocorp air scrubbers provide cleaner air in thousands of law enforcement agencies across North America.

“The … RSU 48 CC Air Scrubber has been one of the best investments for the evidence technicians in the evidence vault. With the odors of drugs, especially marijuana, this system removes the odors and smell of different types of evidence for all personnel handling the evidence in and around the vault. Being able to replace the filters and carbon is an easy process for the evidence technicians. I would recommend these air scrubbers to evidence room technicians.”
Tim Karp, New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, CSI, Castle Hayne, NC
Read more testimonials
Contact Electrocorp for more information.

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