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Was Fentanyl Being Placed on Toilet Seats in Public Restrooms in June 2023?

We’ve previously fact-checked other claims about fentanyl.

Published Jun 20, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images

For years, claims have spread on social media platforms alleging fentanyl was being placed on toilet seats in public restrooms. 

In June 2023, the claim began to pick up steam on Facebook. 

"I got a message today," one Facebook user posted on June 10, 2023. "I think I need to pass it on !! It involves sitting on public toilet seats, that have been doused with fentanyl, that means men or women  !!!! Don't ever sit on a toilet seat away from home."

A related claim on Facebook in June 2023 specified sex traffickers had placed fentanyl on public toilet seats in order to subdue potential victims at Polaris Fashion Place, a mall in Columbus, Ohio.

 

Many of the Facebook posts appeared to be copypasta texts, in which users share a post by repeatedly copying and pasting it. On the platform, we found a post that claimed fentanyl was placed on toilet seats in public restrooms at the mall as far back as April 2021. We also found the sex-trafficker claims on Twitter.  

The Facebook copypasta posts about fentanyl at the Ohio mall included known indicators of misinformation. For example, the posts never directly attributed the original source of the claim. At the time of this writing, no reputable news sources had reported on the sex-trafficker claims. 

""At Polaris Fashion Place safety is our top priority," said Tamra Bower, Polaris Fashion Place's general manager, in an email to Snopes. "The recent social media reports about human trafficking are false. The Columbus Police Department informed us that the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force conducted thorough investigations and found no credible tips. We encourage anyone who suspects such activity to call 911 immediately. You may reach out to CPD directly at 614-645-4545 for more information." 

We also put in a records request with the Columbus Police Department for information about any such incidents. We will update this fact check if we hear back.

We did find one reported instance of a drug being detected on public toilet seats, but it wasn't fentanyl. In September 2021, a television station in Austintown, Ohio (about 2.5 hours from Columbus), reported that local police suspected a woman had taken drugs in a local grocery store after officers found residue on the store's toilet. The station reported police found a bag of methamphetamine in her purse. 

We've previously fact-checked a claim about sex traffickers purportedly using drugs to abduct and kidnap victims. A spokesperson for the SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) Alliance told us in February 2019:

While kidnapping does occur, most often traffickers target vulnerable or at-risk youth by pretending to love or care for them before turning and exploiting them and forcing them into prostitution.

Also, no evidence exists that fentanyl can poison a person who simply touches it. We've previously reported it's extremely unlikely for a fentanyl overdose to occur through incidental skin contact. 

Other reputable publications have reported the same thing. In a report from May 2023, Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist and emergency room physician, told NPR that it's actually difficult for fentanyl to enter the body. He said:

Fentanyl does not pass through the skin efficiently or well. The dry powder form that's encountered in street drugs is not going to pass through the skin in any meaningful way.

We've fact-checked other claims about fentanyl: fentanyl-laced dollar bills, fentanyl residue found on shopping carts, and fentanyl users supposedly cleaning needles by poking toilet paper rolls.

Sources

Alexander, Kyle. "Woman Facing Drug Charges: A Warning to Beware of Toilet Seats." WKBN, 15 Sept. 2021, https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/austintown-news/woman-facing-drug-charges-a-warning-to-beware-of-toilet-seats/.

Kasprak, Alex. "Are Fentanyl Users Cleaning Needles by Poking Toilet Paper Rolls?" Snopes, 29 Aug. 2019, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/fentanyl-needle-toilet-paper-roll/.

---. "Police Chief Warns of Fentanyl Overdose Risk from Residue on Shopping Carts?" Snopes, 7 Nov. 2017, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/fentanyl-overdose-residue-shopping-cart/.

"https://Twitter.Com/KyndalLockman/Status/1299706030637670400." Twitter, https://twitter.com/KyndalLockman/status/1299706030637670400. Accessed 20 June 2023.

LaMagdeleine, Izz Scott. "Look Out For These 'Copypasta' Messages on Facebook." Snopes, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/list/copypasta-facebook-viral/.

MacGuill, Dan. "Did Texas and Arizona See a Spate of Sex Trafficking-Related 'Breath Mint' Druggings in 2019?" Snopes, 6 Feb. 2019, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/breath-mint-trafficking-drug/.

Mann, Brian. "Cops Say They're Being Poisoned by Fentanyl. Experts Say the Risk Is 'Extremely Low.'" NPR, 16 May 2023. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2023/05/16/1175726650/fentanyl-police-overdose-misinformation.

Palma, Bethania. "Are Folded, Fentanyl-Laced Dollar Bills a Safety Threat?" Snopes, 13 June 2022, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/folded-fentanyl-laced-dollar-bills/.

"The SAFE Alliance - A Merger of Austin Children's Shelter and SafePlace." The SAFE Alliance, https://www.safeaustin.org/. Accessed 20 June 2023.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.

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