At Independent Drug Screening, we focus on providing excellent testing for Methamphetamine; but many of our clients aren't sure what signs to look for to determine whether testing is advisable. New Zealand is in the grip of a "P" epidemic, and as a country we're only just beginning to understand the long-term effects of this.
It was initially thought that contamination was only caused by manufacture. A high percentage of properties tested show high levels of contamination that is due to use of Methamphetamine, rather than manufacture.
Meth usage within a property, the most popular being smoking, leaves the same toxic residue, and subsequently results in the same health issues being experienced by those exposed.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine (meth/crack/P/Ice) is a dangerous and highly addictive drug which is "cooked" in illegal laboratories and is known to cause many serious health problems in users. Meth labs leave toxic chemical residue within properties and those who may be exposed to second hand use by breathing, touching or being around contaminants may also suffer many health issues. Methamphetamine is 100% chemically based and its ingredients are all toxic.
Are there any signs I can look for that may assist in determining if Methamphetamine has been used in my property?
- Burning or dry eyes, nose, mouth and/or throat when inside the building/structure.
- A yellow discolouration may be visible in sinks, toilets, drains and on walls.
- Rusting of drain covers
- An unexplained powder residue which may be white, tan, pink, blue, green, orange, red or yellow.
- Red staining on carpets.
- Charring or burn/scorch marks on grass or soil areas.
- Vents have been disconnected.
- Ducting has been disconnected
- Signs that security cameras and/or surveillance equipment have been installed.
- Smoke detectors have been removed or taped.
- Breathing issues, itching, sinus problems and headaches while inside the property are some of the signs of possible exposure.
- Unusual odours inside the property.
- Signs of domestic violence such as holes kicked in walls etc
- Any large collection of plastic bottles either cut down or with round holes with melted edges
What are some of the possible health effects from exposure to Methamphetamine Contaminants?
If you think a household member has been affected by Methamphetamine contamination seek medical advice.
Health effects caused by exposure to meth lab chemicals depend on three things: The lab process and the chemicals used; the amount of chemical and length of exposure; and the age and health of the person exposed. Chemicals may enter the body by being breathed, eaten, or absorbed through the skin. Exposure to high levels of contaminants found in meth labs can cause shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, chemical irritation, burns to the skin, eyes, mouth and nose, and in severe cases, death.
Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may cause symptoms such as nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and breathing difficulties. Benzene, a potential meth chemical, is a VOC known to cause cancer. Chemicals that are acids or bases will cause a burning sensation on the skin and in mucous membranes, and can cause severe eye damage. Exposure to hazardous metals and salts can cause a wide range of health effects, including respiratory irritation, decreased mental function, anemia, kidney damage, and birth defects.
Short term - headaches, nausea, watery and burning eyes, burning skin, coughing, abdominal pain, feeling of coldness or weakness, shortness of breath and dizziness, sleep disorders, convulsions and vertigo
Long term - Cancer, nervous disorders and tremors, damage to kidneys and liver, birth defects, reproductive problems and in extreme case death.
I am concerned that my property has been used as an illegal "meth house"! What do I do now?
What steps are involved in the testing process?
Stage 1 - Presumptive testing. If this returns a negative result - no further action is required, the property has been cleared. If a positive result then move onto stage 2 testing
Stage 2 - This testing is carried out to determine the exact levels of contamination in the property so the correct remediation/decontamination plan can be determined
Stage 3 - Once decontamination/remediation has taken place this testing is similar to stage 2 and is required to give the property a certificate/statement of clearance.
What do I do if the testing comes back positive for Methamphetamine contamination?
Should initial testing (Stage 1) reveal a positive result for methamphetamine contamination, further testing will be necessary(Stage 2). On receipt of all results you will be provided with a report on the findings, levels and recommendations via a RAP (Remediation Action Plan). If the levels are above the Ministry of Health guidelines, the property will require remediation/decontamination, and you may provide the RAP to your chosen remediation/decontamination company.
If levels are below the Ministry of Health guidelines you will be provided with a report confirming the findings and that no further action be required.
How do I choose a remediation/decontamination company?
At Independent Drug Screening, we do not perform remediation or decontamination, and are not affiliated with any decontamination companies. We believe that this is important, as it allows us to provide impartial test results. Independence is very important to us - see our IDS Difference page.
Decontamination companies can be found online. Some local councils will maintain listings of decontamination companies.
When choosing decontaminator, always ensure they are certified and fully insured. You may ask to sight documentation as proof.
Ask about experience and request references for previous jobs they have successfully completed. Also ask if they provide a guarantee.
What is the cost for decontamination?
The cost varies and is determined by the property size and materials, the level of contamination, and the work required to clear the property of contamination. (Including the cartage and disposal of any contaminated materials)
How long does decontamination take?
This also depends on the property size and materials, the level of contamination and the work required to eliminate the contamination. You may wish to ask the remediation/decontamination specialist for an approximate timeframe for completion.
How can I be sure the contamination is gone?
You must obtain re-occupancy clearance, and to do so you must arrange to have post remediation testing (Stage 3) carried out after the remediation/decontamination process is complete. This testing, as in Stage 2 testing you had carried out, will be sent to an approved qualified laboratory, and the certified tester will provide you with a report detailing findings and levels to confirm whether the remediation/decontamination process (RAP) has been successful, and/ or provide further recommendations.
If my house is found to be contaminated in Stage 1 (Presumptive) Testing, will I need to move out? What are the next steps?
If the tester finds a positive reading for methamphetamine contamination which exceeds the Ministry of Health guidelines you will need to move out of the property immediately. This is for your own safety. You will not be allowed entry to the property until re-occupancy clearance is given and you will not be permitted to take any items with you as they may also be contaminated.
You will need to remove pets from the property. Pet’s health may be affected by meth contamination. You may choose to leave your pets with a relative or friends, or board them until the property has been cleared.
Please remember pets sniff and lick odd scents to determine what they are, and like people they are affected by toxic chemicals in and around the property. Symptoms may include a runny nose, vomiting, rashes or burns on the skin or possibly seizures. If you have any concerns please seek veterinary advice.
Do not remove any items from the property. Your certified remediation/decontamination company will dispose of these items correctly to comply with requirements as they also will be contaminated.
What about my clothes, shoes, furnishings and expensive or beloved pieces?
If your house is contaminated, your possessions will be too. You would need to discuss this with your remediation/decontamination company. You may elect to have the remediation/decontamination company quote to attempt to decontaminate items, but success cannot be guaranteed, and it can be quite costly.
If my house if found to be contaminated, can I claim from my insurance company?
Policies differ, as do insurance companies. You would need to contact your insurance company to make this type of enquiry.
Please note that management of meth contaminated properties are provided within the Ministry of Health. 2010. Guidelines for the Remediation of Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratory Sites. Wellington: Ministry of Health. This document is available here