Inside a Meth Lab Cleanup
Making crystal meth involves a witch's brew of ordinary household products like acetone, acids, brake cleaner and iodine, which are all used to cook cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine into meth.
Bottles of paint thinner, drain opener or muriatic or other acids are strong indicators that someone has been making meth, as are propane tanks or other heat sources used to cook the drug. Sinks stained red by phosphorus, chemical smells and powdery residues left in glass cookware are also telltale signs.
Life in a Meth House
Meth users tend to lead messy lives with lasting effects that linger long after they leave.
For every pound of meth produced, five to seven pounds of chemical waste is left behind. Those residues can cause a litany of health problems, including breathing issues, skin irritation, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Over a long period, liver and kidney damage, neurological problems, and increased risk of cancer can occur, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Testing for Meth
To find out if a home is contaminated, homeowners can buy test kits for about $55 from Meth Lab Cleanup and other companies. If test results are positive, then homeowners can hire a professional testing and remediation firm to determine the scope of the problem.
The company will take wipe samples in various parts of the house. Testing the whole house usually runs between $500 and $700 but can cost more for larger homes and more complicated jobs.
The cleanup can run from a couple thousand dollars to $10,000 or more. Some homes have been so badly contaminated that owners choose to demolish the home instead.
Preparing for a Deep Clean
Meth's harmful molecules can be re-emitted for months or even years, according to Glenn Morrison, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Ridding the home's interior of these harmful residues requires rinsing the walls, ceilings and floors with a special cleaning solution several times, according to Joe Mazzuca, co-founder of Meth Lab Cleanup. In addition, his company uses a "negative air" process that sucks out residue from hidden spaces.
Removing Carpet and Other Materials
Chemical vapors can penetrate soft surfaces like carpets and drapes, requiring cleanup crews to strip those materials from the home and dispose of them.
Meth contamination can also extend beyond a home's walls. Meth users often dump used paraphernalia in nearby woods or lots and these areas need to be decontaminated as well.
Sucking Out Harmful Residue
Meth residue can not only coat the surfaces of a home, but invade duct work, attics and hollow spaces as well. It can sometimes even penetrate sheetrock, which then has to be pulled out and replaced.
Of all the dangerous chemical residues left behind in lab sites, meth molecules are the most difficult to eradicate. "If you get rid of that, you can get rid of everything else," said Mazzuca.