Fedweek

The House has passed two bills designed to better protect Customs and Border Protection officers, agents and other personnel against accidental exposure to fentanyl and opioids, some of which enter the country through ports of entry or through international mail facilities—and which can be highly dangerous and even fatal in just minute amounts.

“On a standard day, CBP will screen more than 67,000 cargo containers and seize more than one ton of illicit drugs. The amount of seized synthetic opioids has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing by more than 400% since 2016. In the course of their work, CBP’s frontline personnel are at significant risk of exposure to these dangerous chemicals—through accidental inhalation or even direct skin contact—resulting in accidental overdoses,” says the report on one bill, HR-4739.

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That bill would require CBP to issue policies on the handling of substances which could contain synthetic opioids, require that personal protective equipment and the antidote Naloxone be available in all areas of high risk of potential exposure and that employees receive ongoing training in their proper use and the risks of exposure. The DHS inspector general’s office recommended such steps in a report issued during the summer.

Another, HR-4761, would require CBP to ensure that chemical screening devices are able to identify synthetic opioids in an operational environment at a purity level of 10 percent or lower, or provide ports of entry with an alternative method for identifying narcotics at lower purity levels. That follows a separate IG report finding that while most fentanyl seized at the southern land border ports of entry contain purity levels of less than 10 percent, CBP purchased and deployed screening devices at these locations that are unable to detect purity levels below 10 percent.