MAMa FAQ's #16

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More information can be found in Crystal Meth: They Call it Ice.

There was a meth lab in my house before we moved here. What are the risks to me and my family?

There was a meth lab in my house before we moved here. What are the risks to me and my family?
The risk related to chemical exposure is related to the levels of toxins in the air, the specific toxin involved, and the age and relative health of the person exposed. Common contaminants include
. d-Methamphetamine - numerous neurological effects, stroke and cerebral vasculitis (infants at greatest risk)
. Iodine - thyroid, pulmonary edema (2ppm IDLH)
. Red Phosphorus - Road flares and fireworks- Eye, respiratory irritants/burns
. Phosphine Gas - Respiratory Impairment, neurotoxin, used as nerve gas in WWII
. Acids - hydrochloric, murantic acid- Eye, respiratory and dermal irritants/burns
. Caustics - Strong bases - lye- Eye, respiratory and dermal irritants/burns . Reactive Metals - Lithium - dermal burns, spontaneous fires
. Solvents - Coleman fuel, acetone - carcinogens, liver / CNS effects, flammable
. Sharps - needles and razor blades- Hepatitis, potential HIV infection A feeling of nausea, disorientation, headaches, skin rash, burning eyes or chronic cough may indicate exposure to methamphetamine related chemicals.

Risks to the unborn fetus are unknown. Children crawling on the floor pick up residue of methamphetamine or other chemicals and put them in their mouths. The ventilation system spreads the chemicals throughout the house into rooms far away from the actual cooking area.
A home that has been used as a methamphetamine lab needs to be cleaned out by trained professionals. They will remove the chemicals and ventilate the fumes and have the debris incinerated. Chemical residual is soaked into counter surfaces, wall, and cabinets, carpeting and drapes, the ventilation system, and if appliances were used to store or cook meth, they are contaminated. The drains are also contaminated with chemicals, and the septic system may be leaching toxins into the ground water. Many of these chemicals are carcinogens. Some cause progressive liver damage or kidney failure. Even small amounts of exposure over long periods of time can result in illness. You cannot always smell them, and if they are in the water supply, you cannot taste them. If you are suspicious that a home has been used for a meth lab, it should be checked by a professional.

The house can be tested for chemicals related to meth manufacture, and steps taken to clean the ventilation and insulation. Some homes have to be abandoned or destroyed because of severe contamination. Contact an industrial hygienist for testing of your home to see if it is safe to live there, and what steps need to be taken to clean it completely.

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