Am I living in or near a “Meth House” or a Drug Lab???

Posted by mpolkabla On June - 26 - 2014

Methamphetamine-31061863_10423_ver1.0_640_480…It’s amazing how many properties and residences BioMax assesses which test “positive” for methamphetamine (Meth) residues, states Michel A. Polkabla, CIH, REA, Senior Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), of BioMax Environmental, Inc. Evidence of such contamination is either discovered by law enforcement during drug busts, or discovered by property owners or buyers during home purchase inspections, landlord/tenant inspections, and/or when other “red flag” activities are observed or uncovered. In fact, contamination from methamphetamine residues has been shown to occur from both drug lab manufacturing as well as from the illegal use of the drug product such as in a “Meth House”. Some general warning signs indicating that a residence was used as a Drug Lab or “Meth House” includes:

  • Unusual or increased traffic into and around the residence reported by neighbors
  • Covered or blacked out windows not avoid detection
  • Ventilation fans running blowing “out” of windows or into attic/crawl spaces
  • Large glass containers and chemical related glassware flasks and beakers
  • Large amounts of household waste chemicals such as such as Coleman fuel, lithium batteries, iodine, phosphorous (matches) sodium hydroxide (Draino), ammonia (cold packs or fertilizer), and common solvents such as acetone or toluene
  • Also common are large quantities of cold medicine and antihistamine pills used to extract amphetamine such as Sudafed
  • Staining on walls and surfaces with corrosion of metal home components
  • Large quantities of coffee filters, pillow cases and fabric/bedroom sheets with red staining from Iodine
  • Chemical odors emanating from the residence indicating meth use or production (commonly described as a chemical cat urine-like smell)

The illegal production, purchase, and use of the highly addictive drug methamphetamine (also knowns as crystal meth, ice, speed, crank and other names) has become rampant in the recent year.  According to the national Institute of Drug Abuse, over 20 million Americans have tried meth and there are over 24 million regular users worldwide. The illegal clandestine production and distribution of this powerful drug has also skyrocketed throughout the country due to it’s ease of manufacture, production, distribution, and low cost. Methamphetamine (Meth) is easily made from simple but highly toxic chemicals which are used to extract and convert amphetamine from a number of over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed. It is not uncommon, for instance, for small scale illicit manufacturers to take just a few packages of Sudafed along with some commonly available chemicals purchased at any Walmart-type store to make hundreds of dollars worth of crystal meth for their own use and/or sale. Common products used during the manufacture and purification of meth include flammable solvents such as coleman fuel or toluene, ammonia from ice packs or fertilizers, sodium hydroxide from products like Draino, and lithium metal taken from rechargeable batteries. According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency statistics, there were over 15,000 meth lab busts last year and even conservative statistics estimate that only 1 in 10 meth labs are “busted”.

If you stumble upon or discover these signs of a “meth house”, leave the scene immediately and promptly report your observations to law enforcement authorities. After the authorities have conducted their investigation and have determined the presence of a meth lab or storage of illegal product, the local Health Department will “Post” (or “Red Tag”) the property as uninhabitable and will require an environmental assessment and cleanup of the property. BioMax professionals, under the supervision of Mr. Michael A. Polkabla, CIH, REA, have performed hundreds of assessments of properties potentially contaminated with methamphetamine residues and have directed and overseen corrective mitigation and cleanup of such properties.

The “problem” of contamination in a residence is not only limited to the manufacture of this dangerous and addictive drug, but also lies in the residues left behind on surfaces from the “recreational use” of the drug says Mr. Polkabla. Even what is commonly termed as “recreational use” of methamphetamine always leaves residues on interior surfaces of residences says Mr. Polkabla which many times have been proven to exceed the current California cleanup criteria level of 1.5 micrograms per 100square centimeter (ug/100cm2). In fact, many cleanup projects that BioMax Environmental has managed have identified elevated levels of meth residues on interior wall and other living surfaces where no manufacturing was evident and only frequent use of the drug product had once existed.

In fact, once contamination is deposited on a building’s interior surface (from any source), it has been proven to remain present at similar levels without significant degradation even after  years of vacancy. The residue is a very “oily and sticky” material, states Mr. Polkabla, which remains on walls and other surfaces for long periods of time. Even after over ten years as verified by BioMax during one recent assessment.  Even if the contaminated surface has been painted, the residues will often permeate or “leach through” the dried paint over time and become detectable as verified by recent sampling performed by BioMax on similar assessment projects.

Hence, it is important to first recognize and identify the “Red Flag” signs of potential meth contamination in a residence or property. Then once suspected, it is important to verify through sampling so as to positively identify and measure the meth residue contamination on representative surfaces. Such verification of residue concentrations (or levels) is used by an experienced professional like BioMax to develop appropriate mitigative cleanup procedures of contaminated surfaces and materials according to the specific levels identified and surfaces in question. BioMax Environmental has over 20 years of experience and knowledge in the assessment of residences and properties contaminated with methamphetamine residues and has managed the cleanup and appropriate restoration of such properties to acceptable cleanup levels and regulatory criteria.