Potential Risks of Illicit Drug Residue - Insurance Thought Leadership




September 11, 2019

Potential Risks of Illicit Drug Residue


With the opioid crisis, adjusters need to keep safety top of mind while inspecting a drug-related claim.

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As we continue to face a national opioid crisis, insurance adjusters need to keep their safety top of mind during the inspection of a drug-related claim. It is essential to be aware of the potential health risks you could be facing, especially if the property or vehicle you are dealing with may be contaminated with an illicit drug. When you first step on the scene, remember to think whether the property could have been contaminated by the insured, a third party involved in the claim or an unknown party.

Take a situation where an adjuster is inspecting a property damaged by the renter, and a mysterious white powder is discovered. This powder could be a number of substances –flour, drywall compound, cocaine or even fentanyl. It is important to treat it with caution while identifying the substance, as this will affect the claim and your safety. Another example is water damage that has occurred to a home where recreational drug use or pill pressing occurs. Adjusters must ask themselves and their teams what the contents or mixture of those pills were. Moreover, what if a car is stolen and damaged by individuals high on drugs? What is the risk is to the repair facility?

It’s important to mitigate and manage these types of losses. How do we protect ourselves and our sub trades and rehabilitate the risk? Start by asking yourself, do I really know what the risks are and who can help assess and clean it up? Next, think about the risks by asking yourself, how can we best manage the salvage? As the fentanyl crisis continues, these questions are all crucial.

Fentanyl and carfentanil are both now being cut into to illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin and counterfeit pills, which are made to look like prescription opioids. For this reason, there is no easy way to know if carfentanil was used in the making of a drug – especially because you can’t see, smell or taste it. This causes additional problems, as it is essential to know if there is even a very small amount of fentanyl when handling a substance because of its danger due to the high level of toxicity.

See also: Better Treatments for Opioid Addiction  

What level of exposure from opioids increases health risks? The answer isn’t clear-cut, as it depends on the types of drug that are present – scenes are highly variable if inspections are uncontrolled and unregulated. With fentanyl being 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and carfentanil approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the risk is apparent. As little as a grain of salt of carfentanil could be lethal.

If faced with a situation possibly involving illicit drugs, it is important to do your homework and make sure that qualified and experienced firms are used for the testing and decontaminating of fentanyl or carfentanil. Cleaning can create hazardous wastes or other issues if not done properly. Documenting the work and results by designated professionals is another way to limit a potential liability.

In any case, next time you’re walking through a property and notice a strange powder on your clothes, think twice before simply brushing it off. The results could be fatal, not only to you but to whomever you may come in contact with.


About the Author

Kevin Burgher is the vice president for EFI Global in Canada. For 22 years, he has been an integral part in product development, operations, mentorship, marketing and expansion across Canada.

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About the Author

Ian Mendes is the environmental team leader for Southwestern Ontario operations, working out of EFI Global’s Hamilton office. Mendes has over 25 years of experience in the environmental consulting field.

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