9-month-old boy exposed to powerful opioid carfentanil, Winnipeg police confirm

Test results confirm that a nine-month-old WInnipeg boy hospitalized in October was exposed to carfentanil, an opioid 100 times stronger than fentanyl, police say.

Parents charged with child neglect, drug offences after baby rushed to hospital in October

Carfentanil is a potent opioid commonly used to tranquilize elephants and other large animals but is making its way onto the streets of U.S. and Canadian cities. (Vancouver RCMP)

Test results confirm that a nine-month-old Winnipeg boy hospitalized in October was exposed to carfentanil, an opioid 100 times stronger than fentanyl, police say.

"It's scary," Winnipeg police Const. Jason Michalyshen said. "This is a drug that's in our community and we can't ignore it."

The boy was rushed to hospital in critical condition with respiratory issues on Oct. 18, but his condition later stabilized. Police said at the time they suspected he came into contact with what was possibly fentanyl residue found in an Aikins Street home in the North End of the city.

On Tuesday, police said test results showed the boy was likely exposed to carfentanil.

Our concern was very, very serious before. [It's] even more concerning [now].- Const. Jason Michalyshen

Police sent their clandestine lab unit to the infant's home to investigate due to the toxicity of fentanyl. The synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Police found about half an ounce of loose powder originally suspected to be fentanyl, 10 ounces of bagged suspected fentanyl powder, blotting tabs, a cutting agent and a contaminated bowl and spoon.

'A wake-up call'

Michalyshen told reporters further analysis revealed carfentanil, not fentanyl, was present in the home.

"Our concern was very, very serious before. [It's] even more concerning knowing the effects of carfentanil," he said. "We all know this isn't just a police matter.... It's a wake-up call for I think the entire community."

One microgram of carfentanil is smaller than a grain of salt, and as little as 20 micrograms is considered fatal to most people.

The parents of the boy were later charged with failing to provide the necessities of life, child neglect, drug possession and trafficking offences.

Michalyshen added that police have been actively working with community organizations and medical professionals to try to raise awareness about carentanil and fentanyl, both of which "may be hiding" in other street drugs.

"We know that there are people in our community who are suffering, and we're really trying hard to get some messaging out to the public with respect to individuals who are engaging in incredibly hazardous behaviour," he said. 

"They're not going to smell it, they're not going to taste it. But the bottom line is it could kill you — it can't get more simple than that."