Stine: Public drug use is ‘why people don’t go to downtown anymore’

Stevon Williams, a bus driver for King County Metro, told KOMO News that fentanyl smoke is so common among public transportation, that it’s making him sick.
“I really hadn’t ever heard of fentanyl smoking on the bus when I was hired by Metro,” Williams told KOMO News. “I don’t want to be put in a predicament where I’m around drugs every day on my job — I didn’t sign up for that.”
Williams is currently on leave receiving medical testing for exposure to fentanyl smoke.
“You can find articles dating back to 2018 when this first started becoming really relevant, I have read peer-reviewed study after peer-reviewed study after peer-reviewed study,” said Jack Stine, fill-in host for KIRO Newsradio. “There is not a single piece of data out there that I have seen that suggests you can get secondhand exposure or passive fentanyl exposure from someone who is smoking fentanyl. When it is ingested into the body, it is largely filtered through the lungs. When it comes back out, the amount of actual fentanyl that is released into the air is almost non-existent.”
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Public Health — Seattle & King County stated it’s doubtful for people helping and aiding someone who has overdosed on fentanyl to be exposed to a dangerous secondhand amount.
“There have been many studies looking at this and even measuring fentanyl concentrations in people’s bloodstreams, and they have found that it doesn’t show up at any level that would be a problem,” Public Health — Seattle & King County wrote on its website.
It also stated the risks of being indirectly exposed to fentanyl from another person through skin or through the air are very low.
“I mean, if you’re thinking about somebody who’s smoking fentanyl that’s mixed with heroin, then I might believe some of these bus drivers who are saying that they feel nauseous or they don’t feel good, or they’re getting headaches,” Stine said.
In a period from June to August of last year, the Seattle Fire Department responded to nearly 200 instances along a stretch of 3rd Avenue between Union and Pine streets. Most of the cases were related to public drug use.
“I don’t think that we should be sending the message to people that you should be using [fentanyl] in public spaces so that someone can save your life,” Stine said. “The message should be, you should not be doing fentanyl at all, right? It’s kind of soft-handed like, ‘if you’re going to do it, do it in a place where people can see you,’ and I think to myself, this is why people don’t go to downtown anymore. This is why people don’t want to because they don’t want to have to be around it. They don’t want their kids to see it as sad as it is.”
King County, like many counties nationwide, is facing a fentanyl epidemic. The King County Prosecutor’s Office cited 685 overdoses related to fentanyl in 2022, eight years removed from 2015’s mark of just three.
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Since the start of 2023, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reported 35 people have died from a fentanyl-related overdose.
“This is the thing with Seattle right now. If they are not being serious when you’re dealing with severe drug addiction and to say, we want them to OD in public spaces, is insulting to people,” Stine said.
“It’s enraging,” said KIRO Nights host Spike O’Neill filling in on KIRO Newsradio. “It’s not just insulting, it’s enraging, and it puts us all in public danger.”