Brianna Chambers, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
UPDATE -- 3:30 p.m. ET
An unidentified member of the Leachville Police Department in Arkansas has apologized for a post on the department’s Facebook page.
“The post about the fentanyl was sent (to) me from another officer at another department,” a new post reads. “I simply shared it. (I) should have checked into it further before I posted it. Sorry for the confusion.”
ORIGINAL STORY -- 12:08 p.m. ET
An Arkansas police department warned shoppers everywhere to take one careful measure before grabbing a cart: Wipe down the handle
According to the Leachville Police Department, doing so could be in the best interest of shoppers and their children, spouses and friends.
In a Facebook post published Wednesday, a Leachville Police Department representative wrote that dirty cart handles could carry traces of fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid pain medication.
“You know when you go to Walmart and they have the wipes to clean your cart handle? How many of you don't use them?,” the post read. “Well, I do, and I always thought of the germs only. Was told today that the police chief also suggests you do it also because of all the problems with drugs now days, and if (people) have 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.”
But many people doubted the validity of the post. The police department deleted it Thursday amid criticism.
Here is a portion of the text of the now-deleted post:
“You know when you go to Walmart and they have the wipes to clean your cart handle? How many of you don’t use them? Well I do, and I always thought of the germs only. Was told today that the police chief also suggests you do it also because of all the problems with drugs now days, and if they have 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 ... Copy and paste under your status ... I don’t normally copy and paste, but I thought this needs to get out to all.I normally don’t wipe the handles off the carts, but I definitely will do so now.”
To begin with, the post was written from a first-person point of view, but it’s unclear who wrote the post.
Secondly, the writer of the post started by saying that he or she cleans carts handles and “always thought of the germs only.” Later in the post, the writer contradicted that statement by saying, “I normally don’t wipe the handles off the carts, but I definitely will do so now.”
A third red flag, pointed out by many Facebook commenters, notes that the status could be a copied and pasted content, as indicated by the directive “Copy and paste under your status ... I don’t normally copy and paste, but I thought this needs to get out to all.”
According to the fact-checking site Snopes.com, the validity of the Leachville Police Department post is unproven.
Snopes reports overdose of fentanyl from skin contact is unlikely:
“It’s true that fentanyl can legally be prescribed in the United States in the form of a transdermal patch, which regulates a controlled release of the drug into the system via the skin. This system, however, is specifically engineered to penetrate the top layer of the skin...
“Much of the concern over accidental fentanyl contact ... comes not from legally prescribed fentanyl, but black-market fentanyl in the form of a white powder. While the risk of overdose from this powder ... via oral consumption is both acute and increasingly prevalent, experts have cast doubt on the reality of the risk of overdose from skin contact with this power or its residue ...
“While accidental ingestion would, in theory, be a possibility, the scientific plausibility of overdose through skin contact alone has been called into question.”
Lt. Scott Reed, of the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Unit in Missouri, said “if someone had enough fentanyl in their system to the point where it would transfer from their skin, they would probably be unconscious or dead,” KSDK reported.
“This is more dangerous than people realize when we’re making up these lies,” Chad Sabora, of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform & Recovery, told KSDK. “We’re portraying opiate users like plague-like individuals ... The more we do this, the more we villainize the opiate user and the less likely people are going to be willing to help them.”
Whether or not the claim of the dangers of fentanyl on shopping carts is legitimate, shoppers have nothing to lose by wiping down carts to prevent at least the spread of germs.