Experts debunk dubious Facebook 'warning' over fentanyl on shopp - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Experts debunk dubious Facebook 'warning' over fentanyl on shopping carts

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A social media post by an Arkansas Police Department quickly spread across the nation, prompting an unnecessary warning to shoppers. 

The post on the Leachville Police Department's Facebook page warned shoppers to use disinfectant wipes to scrub down shopping carts because of the risk of residual fentanyl. 

Medical experts say warnings about fentanyl residue on shopping carts are "baseless". 

A post shared on the page Wednesday morning said: 

"Heard something today that's so worth sharing. You know when you go to Wal-Mart and they have the wipes to clean your cart handle? How many of you don't use them? Well I do and I always thought of the germs only. Was told today that the police chief also suggests you do it also because of all the problems with drugs now days and if they have Fentanyl or something like that still on their hands and they touch that cart handle and then you do, it can get into your system. Scary but worth taking the time to clean the handle. All you'd have to do is rub your nose or touch your child's mouth. I never even considered this possibility. Children being exposed to just the powder or residue is a bad situation that can turn deadly.
Never thought about that. Copy and paste under your status let's help keep everyone, especially our children and grandchildren safe.
I don't normally copy and paste but I thought this needs to get out to all. I normally don't wipe the handles off the carts but I definitely will do so now."

The post has since been taken down after the Arkansas Poison Control Center contacted the police department about it. 

Krista Osterthaler, the Vice President for National Outreach, Communications, and Membership at the American Association of Poison Control Centers told 21 News that "There has not been a fentanyl issue in that area. They are very apologetic for not having vetted the post as it was supposedly a share from a misinformed officer." 

However, the post wasn't taken down before media outlets across the country saw it and began reporting on the "dangers" of fentanyl covered shopping carts.

News stations in Cleveland, Akron, Sacramento, St. Louis, Florida, as well as national stations, have begun reporting on the need to wipe down shopping carts before you use them. 

But the experts 21 News spent the day talking to say that it's completely unnecessary. 

Henry Spiller, the Director of the Central Ohio Poison Control Center, said that the post was taken down because it "doesn't have basis" and it's a little bit of an "overreaction". 

Spiller said the risk of the public finding a large enough quantity of fentanyl to overdose is absurd. 

"It's dangerous, don't get me wrong," said Spiller. 

But the concerns lie in large quantities, such as a baggie, or package of fentanyl, that's found during a drug raid. 

Spiller went on to say that a tiny quantity that could be found on a shopping cart would not be absorbed through the skin in a dangerous enough way to cause an overdose. 

It's a sentiment echoed by the Dr. John Venglarcik of the Mahoning County Health Department. 

Dr. Venglarcik says that while the fatal dose of these opiates is small, the amount you would get on your hands would be thousandths of a milligram and would be far too small to cause a problem. 

Even Melvin Patterson, the Staff Coordinator for the National Drug Enforcement Agency weighed in on the controversial post saying: 


"We won't validate rumors perpetuated by social media; however, this isn't something that DEA has observed.  We advise appropriate precautions if there is any possibility of incidental exposure in settings where drugs are known to have been present, but the general public should not be concerned about exposure in their day to day activities." 


Patterson said that overdosing on a small amount of fentanyl is unlikely, but still a possibility. The caveat, however, according to Patterson, is that you would have to touch it, have it stick to your fingers, and then put your fingers in your mouth or your eye in order to get it into your bloodstream and even after that you wouldn't immediately start feeling the effects of an overdose. 

Spiller says that there have been protocols and warnings issued to law enforcement and emergency medical workers who could potentially come into contact with a large amount of fentanyl through their jobs and be exposed to a potential accidental overdose. 

But as for fearing fentanyl from shopping carts, gas pumps, or other public surfaces, Spiller told 21 News that it's too far-fetched. 

He even added that if it was possible, using a cleaning wipe, or disinfectant wouldn't be likely to help much since fentanyl is a chemical compound- not a germ.  

However, if the fear is catching the flu or a common cold from a shopping cart then Dr. Venglarcik suggests, by all means, wipe away. 

The Leachville Police Department has since taken down the post. In its place is now an apology: 

The concern over accidental overdoses has grown following the accidental overdose of an East Liverpool police officer during a traffic stop in May. 

Patrolman Chris Green overdosed and was taken to the hospital after reportedly brushing fentanyl from his shirt after a drug arrest. 

Following that story, national experts debated whether or not a person could overdose from absorbing fentanyl through the skin. 

According to the American College of Medical Toxicology, fentanyl absorbed through the skin in tiny doses, such as incidental contact, will not cause an overdose. 

However, if inhaled, or put into the bloodstream, the FDA and DEA admit that fentanyl in small doses can be deadly. 

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