WASHINGTON, D.C. - When it comes to the growing impact fentanyl is having in the United States opioid epidemic, the numbers say it all.

Of the 70,237 overdose deaths in 2017, more than 47,600 were opioid-related. Deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, causing more than 28,000 of those deaths, a total that is up a whopping 45 percent from 2016, according to the most recent complete data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In Pennsylvania, 70 percent of all fatal drug overdoses, the victim has some amount of fentanyl in their system,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

That’s why federal lawmakers like Toomey and about a half-dozen Republicans and Democrats are cracking down on the source of the problem with their new, first-of-its-kind Fentanyl Sanctions Act. Their proposal would impose direct sanctions on drug manufacturers in China who knowingly ship synthetic opioids to drug traffickers in Mexico, and other nations, and ultimately sell in the United States.

The bipartisan effort is led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“We’ve got to put a stamp, return to sender,” Schumer said during a news conference in New York City on Sunday.

The latest data from the CDC – released in 2018 and recapping 2017 overdose figures – show the epidemic has hit New York and Pennsylvania the hardest. Below is a ranking of the states with the highest total of all drug overdose deaths in 2017:

  1. Pennsylvania - 5,388
  2. Ohio - 5,111
  3. Florida - 5,088
  4. California - 4,868
  5. New York - 3,921

To illustrate how simple it can be to mail the drugs into the United States, Schumer opened what appeared to be an ordinary shoe box and removed a pillbox from inside one of the shoes. The pillbox did not contain Fentanyl, he stressed, but it easily could have.

Much of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States comes through the mail, upwards of 90 percent, according to the Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration. The amount coming overland from places like Mexico is roughly 10 percent.

“The legislation applies anywhere in the world that someone would try to produce this poison,” Toomey said.

There is still a long way to go to curb the crisis, notably finding ways to gain cooperation from the Chinese government. Previously, their leaders denied their country’s illicit fentanyl producers are contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis.

The bill would also target banks and other institutions that fund that production and distribution.You can read more about the bill here.