Farshid Pashaee of PerkinElmer demonstrates a portable testing lab for technician Mark Nelson and operations manager Troy Archibald from BC HAZMAT Management. (Hugo Wong/News staff)

Fighting the fentanyl crisis with military-grade hardware

North Saanich company looking for new, faster ways of identifying hazardous materials

Years ago, when David Rogers was a firefighter, he would test for dangerous substances by pouring some onto concrete. If it did not etch the concrete, he would throw a match onto it. If it did not ignite, he would consider the area safe.

Now as the head of BC HAZMAT Management, he is on the lookout for more accurate (and less dangerous) testing solutions to keep people safe, particularly in the wake of the fentanyl epidemic sweeping across Canada.

BC HAZMAT is considering purchasing new testing equipment for unknown chemicals including fentanyl in drugs, which could cost around $100,000. The cost is high, but it’s worth it to Rogers and BC HAZMAT’s clients, which include local first responders and property owners.

John Espley, director of marketing and communications for BC HAZMAT, recalled a recent situation in Central Saanich where two employees from 1-800-GOT-JUNK opened an unmarked canister that contained a chemical used in tear gas. He said they were overcome immediately and began to vomit.

“Those poor guys are rushed off to hospital with no idea what ails them. So we used the current system we have, the Raman laser, to identify the chemical. We called the hospital so they could treat them. Speed is of the essence.”

BC HAZMAT currently uses Raman spectroscopy to detect and identify substances. The machine examines how a sample scatters light and makes a determination, but Espley said that the system can be inaccurate when samples contain more than one substance, such as a heroin sample laced with fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The new system that was demonstrated by representatives from PerkinElmer uses gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which separates a sample into its different compounds and compares it to known chemicals in a built-in library.

The machine was originally developed for military use when dealing with possible chemical weapons, and was recently used at the Shambhala music festival so attendees could test drugs for safety.

BC HAZMAT could use it when cleaning up drug labs, where chemicals are sometimes used to render other, harmful chemicals inert. However, it is impossible to do without first knowing what the potentially dangerous chemical is.

“Our biggest problem is not the two grains of salt we can see on the table that will kill you, it’s the residue that could be left,” said Rogers.

“Think about a desk with a runner on the side, with that little crease. How do you clean that? — short of taking everything apart or disposing everything.

“Disposing without neutralizing could expose anybody in the disposal system.”

The results from a machine like this cannot be used in court; that requires an accredited lab, but Rogers said that “I don’t care what the accredited lab comes up with in a week, I want to know today.”



reporter@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

reporter@peninsulanewsreview.com

Just Posted

Michael Silberbauer named first coach of Pacific FC

The Island’s James Merriman named assistant coach

No new leads in 1992 Guyatt murder case

Newspaper clippings will not lead to the discovery of Shannon Guyatt’s body, says police

New Victoria bus routes bound for airport, Camosun College

Bus routes and schedules are about to change this fall, and two… Continue reading

Two Waters project to bring 700 town homes, condos to Colwood

Relevant Properties forging ahead with project

Police seek vehicle after early morning carjacking in Oak Bay

Stolen car is a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero, license plate FL307T

Zeballos wildfire not getting any closer to town – BC Wildfire Service

Authorities optimistic about Zeballos; choppers grounded due to heavy smoke

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

UPDATE: Saanich Police seek to identify suspect in sexual assault

Assault occurred in broad daylight in tent near Ravine Way

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

New plan to lift more than two million people past the poverty line

Anti-poverty strategy will aim for 50 per cent cut in low-income rates: source

Liberals scrap lottery system for reuniting immigrants with their parents

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

Another person stabbed at a tent city on Vancouver Island

Incident happened Friday afternoon in Nanaimo; injuries were not severe

Most Read