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FDNY tweaks drug test

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The opiate level required for a positive drug test for firefighters has been sharply increased, the Fire Department said Wednesday. The department said it acted after urine tests showed 40 firefighters had traces of opiates during the past year, but all were later cleared by hair follicle tests.

The level was raised to 2,000 nanograms, from 300 nanograms, according to a department order sent to all fire commands late Wednesday. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.

The department began a random drug testing program in August 2004 after several embarrassing incidents involving drugs or alcohol.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association had objected to the 300 nanogram level, saying in 2004 that it was 21/2 times more stringent for opiates, such as heroin, than the Police Department’s level and seven times more stringent than the FBI’s.

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