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Fentanyl Detection Standards Updated to Better Protect Frontline Responders

Credit: DHS S&T

Unknown or unexpected contact with a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl or a related compound presents a significant safety hazard for first responders if they are not prepared with the proper protective equipment.

The ability of first responders to identify fentanyl, its analogs and other synthetics drugs using reliable equipment, verified through standardized methods, and access a reference library that catalogs the data in one place enables them to effectively plan and conduct operations while simultaneously increasing responder safety.

In July, ASTM International, one of the largest standards development organizations in the world, published three new standards for the field detection of fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds.

“This suite of standards is an example of a standards-enabled capability, providing the underpinning standards infrastructure supporting integration of a new capability into operations,” said DHS Standards Executive Philip Mattson, who chairs ASTM’s Committee on Homeland Security Applications.

The effort to produce these protective standards was a collaboration between ASTM International and the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, via its’ Office of Mission and Capability Support and Office of Science and Engineering, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), industry professionals, and other key stakeholders.

ASTM E3243-21 Standard Specification for Field Detection Equipment and Assays Used for Fentanyl and Fentanyl-Related Compounds

Standard specification ASTM E3243-21 provides system designers, manufacturers, integrators, procurement personnel, end-users, practitioners, and responsible authorities a common set of parameters to match the capabilities of chemical detection tools with user needs for their specific application.

ASTM E3289-21 Standard Guide for Using Equipment and Assays for Field Detection of Fentanyl and Fentanyl-Related Compounds

Standard guide ASTM E3289-21 provides the end-user—those detecting these illicit and dangerous compounds in the field—with information on the optimal use as well as critical limitations of detection equipment.

ASTM E3290-21 Standard Test Method for Establishing Performance of Equipment and Assays for Field Detection of Fentanyl-Related Compounds

Finally, standard test method ASTM 3290-21 details different methods for the testing of field detection equipment in a lab setting, specifically sample preparation, analysis protocols, and procedures to use when examining equipment performance.

“The development of fentanyl detection standards was a critical first step on the path to providing our first responders with more robust detection capabilities that will better inform and protect them from hazardous substances they encounter in the field,” said Dr. Rosanna Anderson, who leads S&T’s Opioid/Fentanyl Detection program.

“This project is truly a win-win for first responders and manufacturers of field chemical detection equipment. Having these expanded libraries will improve responder capability to identify new drugs they encounter and respond in a more effective manner.”

Rich Ozanich, lead researcher at PNNL who developed the standards and is leading the development of expanded instrument libraries and assessment of instrument performance.

The newly published standards will be put into effect almost immediately through a S&T-led research and development effort with PNNL; they will be used to support collection of reference spectra to build out instrument libraries with approximately 50 Drug Enforcement Agency controlled substances including fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other emerging synthetic drugs.

A follow-on test and evaluation event to assess the upgraded instrumentation will follow the procedures outlined in standard test method ASTM 3290-21. With the participation of 15 commercial vendors, submitting 20 different field portable opioid detection systems, this will result in a comprehensive reference library that will be provided to first responders who currently use these instruments at no cost and as a publicly accessible report on the performance assessment results.

Visit ASTM’s website to access these and other ASTM approved and published standards.

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