Officials: Package sent to DC Dept. of Corrections contained synthetic cannabinoid, not fentanyl

- D.C. fire officials say 16 Department of Corrections employees were evaluated Thursday morning after potentially being exposed to a substance in a package received in the department's mailroom. That substance was first thought to be fentanyl, but fire officials later said it was synthetic cannabinoid instead.

Of those employees who reported symptoms, officials say 7 were transported to Washington Hospital Center to be evaluated as a precaution. 

Department of Corrections officials said the suspicious package was received around 9 a.m. Thursday. D.C. fire crews were called around 10:30 a.m., after employees started reported having symptoms consistent with exposure to fentanyl. Those symptoms can include dizziness, drowsiness, and difficulty breathing. 

John Donnelly, Deputy Chief of Special Operations for D.C. Fire and EMS, said initial field tests determined the substance was fentanyl.

"We have a set of field tests that the fire department does, our hazmat team does upon entry, we used the same process and in the process, we can identify characteristics of the materials and from that we can do further test to identify the material and that's what we did," John Donnelly with DC Fire and EMS said.

The substance was sent in for further testing. A D.C. Fire & EMS spokesman told FOX 5 late Thursday that it was not fentanyl, but instead was synthetic cannabinoid. No specific details were given about the package. 

No injuries were reported and no one else was affected by the situation. The mailroom has been deemed safe, however all mail deliveries and visits have been temporarily halted as the investigation continues.

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