Police Ignore Meth Labs – No Money to Bust Them
Municipalities across the country are faced with a terrible decision. Some are deciding that raiding meth labs is too expensive. Tax cuts in Washington have resulted in transferring fiscal responsibility for many programs, in all areas of government, to the states. Most states are facing financial shortfalls and programs we take for granted are being cut, or eliminated. Facing choices of protecting public health, or eliminating programs that may be seen as more necessary, public health may suffer. The police in many localities have had to make this choice. According to an AP article by Jim Salter, The Associated Press, “At least one sheriff became so frustrated that he considered burning meth waste illegally in a landfill rather than leaving it in neighborhoods where curious children could find it.”
“Making matters worse, sheriffs say, was the suddenness of the loss, which didn’t give cash-strapped local governments any time to come up with another way to pay for cleanups that typically cost $2,500 to $5,000 per lab.”
In Thornton, Colorado, the fire chief is looking to the local health department and the EPA for funds at a time when governmental agencies, from local to federal, are short on money. Like many other government programs, there is likely to be less, if any, money coming from the federal government in the near future. These funds will have to come from increases in local taxes and fees, or the programs cut back, or eliminated.
What this means for home buyers, and renters, is that they have a much better chance of ending up in an unremediated drug lab. A new level of vigilance is required when buying any real estate, or any used property of any kind. When meth is made, or smoked, it leaves behind a residue that is very hard to remove. This residue makes people and pets sick. People who come into contract with meth residue can experience a meth high, and test positive for meth in their systems. Contact with meth residue can come from cars, or furniture. A home inspection, or commercial property inspection, will not necessarily reveal that a property was used for making, or smoking meth. It is beyond the scope of such inspections, and the training of such inspectors.
Smoke from using meth, and vapors from cooking it, like all gases fill a structure perfectly and fully. They cling to everything they touch, leaving behind toxic waste that is very hard to clean. Meth residue can be detected for years in carpets, other porous materials, on walls, and other surfaces. People who come into contact with these polluted surfaces, and materials, ingest the residue through skin, mouth and nose. This is especially true for babies, and young children, who crawl, or play, on the floor and put their fingers in their mouths, or breathe close to carpets.
People who live around meth, or in places where meth was made, or smoked, may experience symptoms of chronic meth use. It may show up in a drug test for work, or other purposes. I had a call from a woman whose young children were taken into protective custody when they tested positive for Meth. She did not. She claimed it was because they played in the garage where their father, and his friends, smoked meth. This is possible.
I get many calls from people who believe a neighbor is making, or smoking meth, and it is making them sick. This is also possible. For several years callers have complained that police refuse to so anything about meth labs in their neighborhoods. In one instance the caller was told to mind here own business. I assume an active investigation was happening, but I wonder if some of the other callers were in areas that police were either not trained to deal with meth pollution, or did not have the funds to do so.
Meth is commonly smoked, or made, in cars or other vehicles. The toxic waste would be more concentrated on surfaces, and in porous materials, inside the car, because of the small space. People who buy these cars come into contact with the residue. Children who ride in these cars are even more vulnerable. You can test at home using an inexpensive saliva swab to find out if you, or your children have ingested environmental meth.
I recently inspected a Denver area property that was a properly remediated meth lab in a suburban home.The thing that struck me was that it was too perfect. It was a modest home that had upgrades for all mechanical systems, switches, outlets, fixtures, flooring, doors and windows. Even the furnace vents were sparkling clean. I’ve seen few houses that have been remodeled to that detail, but this is what it takes, and more, to make a home where meth was heavily smoked, or manufactured safe for people and pets. The chances of a property being renewed to these standards, without the impetus of law to remediate, are about zero. The chances that toxic chemicals dumped in yards, and down drains, will be discovered are very slim. The chance that these health hazards will be removed is nonexistent.
The same day I inspected another house where I discovered a matrix frame I assumed was used to test for meth. There was nothing else to indicate that this was a meth house. The following day I was sick, a rare occurrence. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I felt highly unusual and forgot to eat. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the house, so I decided to find a simple test for meth in my system for future use. The test I found that seemed most accurate, clean, easy and private was a saliva test.
If you’re buying a property that has the remotest chance of having meth smoked, or manufactured, in or around it, at a minimum do a home test for meth. “DIY meth residue test kits are available that you can take with you to a home inspection and do your own testing.
Unless you are an environmental testing scientist, remember that even if you get no positive tests, it is not proof that no meth residue, or chemicals used to make it, exists in or around the property. If you get a positive test, you know for sure that meth residue is present and appropriate action must be taken immediately. If you still have reason to believe that meth might be present when you get only negative test results, hire an industrial hygienist for professional, scientific testing.
If you live in a place you suspect may have meth residue, or own a car that may have been used for smoking, or making meth, you can test the place, or you can test yourself. If you’ve been exposed to sufficient amounts of meth residue, it will be in your system and can be detected with a home saliva meth test.
Buyer beware is more important now than ever. To protect yourself, go beyond the property inspection. Home inspections do not include the type of testing needed to detect past meth manufacture, or smoking, in or around a property. More undisclosed meth polluted properties will be on the market. Don’t get stuck with one.