All of us have a list of worries when looking to move into a new home but if it hasn’t occurred to you before, you should have possible meth contamination on your list. If you are considering moving into a location that’s in or neighboring a drug abuse area or a foreclosed property, count environmental testing for street drugs as first on your list.You may want to check out A-1 Certified Environmental Services, LLC for more.
A 2002 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that more than 12 million people age 12 or older (5.3 percent) had used methamphetamine at least one time in their lives. In 2003, 32 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies nationally named methamphetamine as the number two contributor–behind cocaine (50 percent)–to violent crime in their jurisdictions.
Methamphetamine is made in improvised illegal laboratories using ingredients oftentimes bought in local stores. Over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and other materials can be “cooked” to make the drug. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), methamphetamine production and trafficking have changed in the past 10 years. In 2001, according to the National Clandestine Laboratory Database, there were 8,290 methamphetamine lab seizures. From 1999 to 2004, the number of seizures in total actually declined, but seizures dramatically increased in midwestern states.
Chemical Hazards During Synthesis
There are numerous formulas used to synthesize methamphetamine. Most processes are dependent on availability of mass chemicals. Because the structures of ephedrine and methamphetamine are very related, a lot of recipes are fashioned to take out a bound oxygen and hydrogen atom from the ephedrine and replace it with hydrogen. 
Was this place a meth lab? Occasionally the evidence is glaring. Sometimes it’s not. Meth labs might be concealed behind false walls. You may observe modifications that seem strange such as exhaust fans mounted where they have no rational use or bootlegged power supply. The following list gives more obvious meth lab signs:
-Yellow stains on walls, drains, sinks and showers
-Blue discolorations on valves of propane tanks and fire extinguishers
-Smoke detectors that are removed or taped off
-Experiencing physical symptoms when inside the house, such as burning in your eyes or throat, itching, a metallic taste in your mouth and breathing problems
-Odd 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 or even a clean up you should have the home tested for traces of drugs. The dangers aren’t worth the risk. The chemicals used to manufacture elicit drugs can saturate the walls, get in the carpet and household contents such as furniture. Lead and mercury are common by-products detected in the meth residue. Health experts say effects from exposure to meth residue can include skin and eye irritation, rash, headaches, respiratory problems, dizziness, loss of coordination, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous systems. Little is known about the long term effects on health.
Safety is extremely important. Suitable respiratory protection and other personal protective equipment are central factors in reducing the risk of adverse health affects for personnel going into and cleaning up methamphetamine laboratories. Surface contaminants in illicit labs and the surrounding area can be significant. The entire area of an illicit methamphetamine laboratory should be considered significantly contaminated with the drug itself. One study accounted wipe sample concentrations as high as 16,000 micrograms per 100 square centimeters (µg/100cm²).
So, what about those “do-it-yourself” wipe tests that you can buy online? NOT recommended for several reasons. First and foremost is safety. It’s not recommended that ANYONE set foot inside a potentially contaminated property unless trained and certified by OSHA in Hazardous Materials handling. Our technicians wear full level C PPE the entire time that they are on the premises of a potential meth lab. In addition, any results you obtain will be unscientific and not legally defensible. Finally, those tests for the most part will give you only a +/- for the presence of the meth molecule and will tell you nothing as to the levels of meth that are present.
A positive test may occur in places where meth has been used, as well as manufactured. This test is for the actual residue of the drug alone. It does not screen for chemicals used in the fabrication or those that are produced in the process. A positive test tells you simply to proceed with caution and doesn’t really help to paint a picture as to what needs to be done to resolve the problem.
This is serious business and it’s important that you bring in someone that is qualified to handle this for you. Half measures and quick fixes are not going to bring you peace of mind, safety and the ever important legally defensible documentation that you have a professionally remediated structure that is clean and ready to be occupied.