Wes Kelley, Certified Inspector
7 Oaks Home Inspection, LLC
All of us have a list of concerns when moving into a new home but if you’re in Missouri you should have possible meth contamination on your list. If you’re moving into a location that is in or near a drug abuse area, foreclosed property or prior use area consider environmental testing for street drugs as number one on your list.
Sometimes the evidence is obvious. Sometimes it’s not. Meth labs may be hidden behind false walls. You might notice alterations that seem odd such as exhaust fans mounted where they have no logical use or bootlegged power supply. The following list by: Chemist Lynn Riemer Of The North Metro Drug Task Force gives more obvious meth lab signs:
- Yellow discoloration on walls, drains, sinks and showers
- Blue discoloration on valves of propane tanks and fire extinguishers
- Fire detectors that are removed or taped off
- Experiencing physical symptoms while inside the house, such as burning in your eyes or throat, itching, a metallic taste in your mouth and breathing problems
- Unusual strong odors that smell like materials from a garage, such as solvent and paint thinner, cat urine or ammonia the use of security cameras and surveillance equipment.
Even if the owner disclosed prior drug use you should have the home tested for traces of drugs. The dangers aren’t worth the risk. These chemicals can saturate the walls, get into the carpet and house contents such as furniture. Lead and mercury are common byproducts found in the meth residue. Health offices say effects from exposure to meth residue can include respiratory problems, skin and eye irritation, rash, headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of coordination, damage to live, kidney and central nervous systems. Little is known about the long term effects on health.
Missouri was declared a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area because of the number of clandestine methamphetamine labs located in the state. It was these types of statistics that prompted Gov. Bob Holden to enact a task force to address detection, property clean up and long term effects of living with meth residue. He said this problem must be addressed in an, “aggressive, comprehensive and coordinated manner.” Meth statistics spurred the formation of the Missouri Methamphetamine Enforcement and Environmental Protections Task Force. They have produced an eight page guide book for handling contaminated property. This groups says, “There are currently no official guidance or regulation on how to clean up a former meth lab for reoccupation. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is working to find an answer that will protect the public and be practical to home owners.” Currently Missouri does not have a system in place to label or disclose to the public if a home had a meth lab. Additional, Missouri does not provide free test kits as some states, such as Utah provide to their residents.
Missouri ranks #1 for meth lab busts but since many meth labs are never detected at all the true numbers could be staggering. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “Over 12 million United States citizens reported trying methamphetamine at least once with over 800,000 people reporting lifetime methamphetamine use during 2004.”
If you don’t know the history of your home try to find out. If you moving into a new area find out as much as you can about its history. If you’re renting try to gather information from your neighbors and landlord. Rather than worry, order a test kit or hire a qualified environmental inspector to perform a street drug test for security and peace of mind.