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Police Warn To Wipe Down Shopping Carts, But Not Because Of Germs


It seems not a day goes by without a news story regarding the opioid epidemic that is raging across America. These drugs are everywhere and in every community.  They are no respecter of status, race, wealth, family, job, or surroundings. News reports from coast to coast are filled with stories of the unprecedented spike in overdose deaths. All of those deaths seem to place the blame on opiate and opioid abuse. Many times they are mixed with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Among more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in the year 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl with over 20,000 overdose deaths attributed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015. Nearly half of the opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.


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As a result police departments throughout the nation are giving people all sorts of warnings regarding opioids, including one Arkansas police department warning people to use shopping cart wipes before touching shopping carts to avoid any potential accidental exposure to fentanyl. The idea is that someone who uses fentanyl may have previously touched the cart and is transferring the drug.

The Leachville Police Department posted on Facebook –

“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.”

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Since it was posted Wednesday, the warning has been shared more than 100 times.  However, people are starting to question the legitimacy of the warning.  Drug task force leaders stated you can indeed ingest fentanyl through skin contact is unproven, though possible.

Black-market fentanyl is considered to be the most deadly but is also the most popular, and it comes in the form of white powder.  The DEA recently warned in a press release to first responders that this kind of fentanyl can be “absorbed through the skin or eyes, any substance suspected to contain fentanyl should be treated with extreme caution as exposure to a small amount can lead to significant health‐related complications, respiratory depression, or death.”

The warning was released shortly after an Ohio police officer made the claimed he overdosed while working on a drug bust and coming in contact with fentanyl. However, both medical professionals and toxicology experts are raising major concerns about such a claim.

Jeremy Samuel Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School states –

“Neither fentanyl nor even its uber-potent cousin carfentanil can cause clinically significant effects, let alone near-death experiences, from mere skin exposure.”

It seems reports are mixed with regard to accidental fentanyl exposure, however, wiping down your shopping cart with antibacterial wipes should be a given due to the amount of bacteria they may harbor. University of Arizona researchers recently did a bacteria sample study on 85 grocery store shopping carts in various West Coast cities.  The study found the amount of bacteria they contain is more than what they measured in 100 public restrooms up to and including toilet seats and flush handles.

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Shopping carts are found to harbor some of the most painful of microbial monsters, such as diarrhea-causing Campylobacter and the potentially deadly Salmonella.  Of the 85 shopping carts sampled, more than 50% were found to carry E. coli.  A whopping 72% were found to contain coliform bacteria.  This level of coliform suggests that fecal matter is involved in the contamination of most shopping carts.

So the message is clear, wipe down your shopping carts whether you simply want to be on the safe side for possible fentanyl exposure or simply to avoid exposure and potential sickness. Make this a routine part of your trips to the store!

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