Law Enforcement authorities across California and the United States are seeing a boom in a small-scale methamphetamine manufacturing done in soda bottles (drug makers seem to prefer a 2 Liter Mountain Dew bottle). Using the “shake-and-bake method,” meth cookers can produce hundreds of dollars’ worth of the illegal drug in less than an hour in their backyard, the woods, in a car, and/or on the go. All the needed materials can be easily purchased at any local convenience store and carried, transported, and hidden in easily concealable areas such as backpacks or small storage containers. In fact, one would-be manufacturer was recently caught in California shopping for supplies at a local Walmart while he was actively cooling methamphetamine in his backpack.
According to law enforcement agencies across the country, over 90 percent of the methamphetamine busts associated with manufacturing are now using the extremely portable and “clandestine” Shake & Bake, or “One-Pot” synthesis method.
What police are seeing are not the gleaming, high-production labs like the one in the popular television series “Breaking Bad”, where high-scale manufacturing methods such as the once popular “Red Phosphorous” and “Anhydrous Ammonia”, Nazi, (or P2P ) synthesis methods were once common. Now the shake-and-bake method has made methamphetamine easier and faster to make but also has a significantly increased danger of explosions, burns, and toxic exposures. When the ingredients — which include lithium strips (from batteries), sodium hydroxide (drain cleaner), ammonium nitrate (from cold packs or fertilizer) and camping-stove fuel — are mixed together to generate meth, the chemical reactions inside the bottle can race out of control and by generating extremely high heat (through the volatile exothermic reaction) which can ignite or even explode.
One-pots are incredibly toxic and volatile… where someone traveling around with this “arsenal” of toxic chemicals can have the chemical reaction easily go wildly out of control and if not done properly, explode. In fact, this is precisely how most of these One-Pot meth producing criminals are discovered and caught. Hazardous materials responders and police are also in harms way when responding to such incidents and discoveries due to the toxic nature of the chemicals used and produced such as anhydrous ammonia gas which if breathed briefly can cause significant and permanent lung damage and even death. Reaction vessels (typically those 2-Liter Mountain Dew bottles) containing the toxic chemical mixture can also remain highly explosive and reactive even after the synthesis is complete. This is why is it is crucial for emergency responders, police, inspectors and anyone who comes across these materials are trained to recognize these materials and to vacate the area immediately. Hazardous materials responders will only use extreme caution when dealing with these materials (using flame and chemical proof suits and self contained breathing apparatus/ respirators)… and for good reason!
The shake-and-bake process is so much easier than traditional meth labs. The purity and potency of the meth depends on the skill of the cooker. A proficient meth maker can produce 3 grams of methamphetamine from a single pack of cold medicine (such as Sudafed or many other Night-time cold medicines). When cut with inert ingredients, the process can yield about 12 grams of street-level meth that sells for about $100 a gram. Meth cookers prefer the shake-and-bake method not just because it’s easier to create the drug, but also because it’s easier to escape detection. Federal law, limits purchases of over the counter medicines used to produce methamphetamine per person to 3.6 grams in one day and to 9 grams in 30 days. A box of cold medicine can contain up to 3.6 grams. With every purchase, the customer has to show a photo identification, and the store is required to keep a record of the purchase.
BioMax Environmental has extensive experience in the assessment, sampling and cleanup over site of residue contamination associated with the illegal clandestine drug lab manufacturing of methamphetamine. Our Senior Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) has over 18 years of experience in Northern California and neighboring states such as Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in the assessment, evaluation, and cleanup of such sites.