Meth Labs – Methamphetamine Contamination

Over the past few decades, the illegal production of methamphetamine has reached epidemic proportions both in the United States and internationally. The manufacture of this drug has caused billions of dollars in damage to property, to the pharmaceutical industry, and most importantly has caused serious health effects to people through use and unseen contamination in homes.

Due to the seriousness of this problem, close to a dozen states have adopted regulatory clean up standards and many more will follow suit before the end of the decade. Some states have created guidelines for the public that outline clean up requirements, but much of the information has little scientific basis and does not offer a comprehensive approach to the problem.

Various processes and combinations of chemicals are used to manufacture (“cook”) meth. Each process produces gas or vapour at some point(s) during the cooking process. It is estimated that each pound of manufactured meth produces five to six pounds of hazardous waste that may be disposed of illegally in the environment. To make matters more challenging, many of these sites are in a residential setting meaning children and other occupants of the property may potentially be exposed to chemicals, harmful gases, hazardous materials and illegal drugs during and after the cooking process.

Clan labs must be cleaned up to protect current and future occupants. Active laboratories pose the greatest risk and must be safely neutralized and decommissioned before a permanent long-term solution to the potential health hazards associated with residual contamination may be contemplated. Under the current cleanup model employed in several states, clan labs are often decommissioned and cleaned up in two general phases. The first phase involves law enforcement and other qualified first responders. The second phase or long-term cleanup involves property owners and/or other interested parties in the property.

In the first phase, bulk chemicals are removed and the laboratory is decommissioned.  However, this activity should not be mistaken for the long-term cleanup of the property since the scope of work is generally limited to the abatement of illegal activity and any imminent threat to human health and the environment.

In response to this issue and the growing concern over the potential health effects associated with clan labs, eleven states have passed regulations with regard to decontamination standards.  In short, the second phase provides mechanisms for cleanup of contamination and certification by local health departments that a contaminated property has been cleaned up to established standards.

Property owners whose houses, apartments, motel rooms and even storage facilities were used for meth production face decontamination costs running into the thousands of dollars. On average, only one in three contaminated properties gets cleaned up. And cleanup usually happens solely because determined property owners do it voluntarily.

Source: Article written and provided by National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI)