The use of methamphetamines as an abused
drug has risen dramatically in the last 10 years. The
reasons are understandable: it can be made from readily
available materials found in drug stores, home improvement
stores, and agricultural chemical supplies - by mail and
the internet. It can be made in small quantities in a
basement, garage, storage space, bathroom or bedroom in
just a few hours. It doesn’t have to be smuggled
in from Afghanistan or Columbia.
The dangers are also as dramatic: fire explosions,
pollution, short and long term health effects, contamination
of homes, vehicles, children and law enforcement personnel.
In 2004, there were 17, 170 meth lab “incidents”
according to the Drug Enforcement Administration National
Clandestine Laboratory Database. The greatest concentration
of these meth labs is in the Midwest, apparently due to
availability of the ingredient anhydrous ammonia, which
is a commercial crop fertilizer. But these clandestine
meth labs are appearing everywhere in the U.S.
Law enforcement personnel who perform seizures
of these clandestine meth labs face significant dangers.
This is also true of investigating officers who may be
at a meth lab site for a significant period of time gathering
Exposure can result from inhalation or physical
contact with a variety of known chemicals with known effects
and a host of exposures to reactions that can occur from
the chemicals used in meth cooks.
The probability that methamphetamine will
contaminate a building where a cook has occurred is almost
certain. It is also certain that contamination persists
weeks, months, and possibly years after a meth cook or
cooks have occurred. It is highly likely that methamphetamine
contamination will occur in furniture, floors, walls,
furnishings, clothing and personal items such as toys.
There has been no level of contamination
considered safe since, there is no research available
on the effects on humans at low levels of methamphetamine.
The safe level is thus the detectable level.
Methamphetamine, whether in an area where
a cook, or use, has occurred, can readily become airborne
both as a particulate and a vapor. It can thereafter settle
on any flat surface and be picked up by passersby or re-aerosolized
and inhaled. This is most important where toddlers and
young children are present.
Practically anyone associated with a meth
cook area; family, friends, law enforcement, custodial
personnel, will have positive urine tests for methamphetamines.
An area can also be contaminated by just
“smoking” meth. Although methamphetamine can
be ingested or injected, the most likely method of use
is smoking. Tests by the National Jewish Medical and Research
Center in Colorado have shown that as few as 5 “smokes”
can result in equaling the 0.1ug/100cm2 clean up level;
resulting in exposure to other occupants especially young
children – who crawl on floors, touch everything,
and often have their hands in their mouths.
The safe levels of building occupants where
a cook or even repeated “smoking” has taken
place have not been established.
Allowable levels of methamphetamine after
cleanup are not based on health effects since there is
little known on the subject of low level exposure. The
levels are set based on limits of detection. The State
of Washington recently reduced its allowable level from
5 ug/ft2 to 0.1 ug/100cm2 for a surface wipe test. Colorado
has set a limit of 0.5 ug/ft2 for a surface test. The
limit for air samples is 0.1 ug/M3.
Atlantic Environmental, Inc. has the ability
to perform air sampling, wipe samples and suggest the
levels of personnel protection required in a particular
situation. We can also recommend clean up requirements,
disposal of chemicals and occupancy decisions where methamphetamine
was “smoked” or otherwise abused, or meth
cooks have occurred.
Methamphetamine Resource Links
Atlantic Environmental Inc
2 East Blackwell Street
Dover, NJ 07801
(973) 366-3116 Fax
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