What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a human-made, Schedule II stimulant that is commonly known on the streets as “speed” and “meth”; in its smoked form, methamphetamine is known as “ice,” “crystal,” “crank,” and “glass.” The bulk of methamphetamine currently on the streets has been illegally manufactured. The chemicals used in the manufacturing process can be corrosive, explosive, flammable, toxic, and, possibly, radioactive; for every pound of the finished product, five to six pounds of chemical waste is left at an illicit lab site. Environmental risks are present with former methamphetamine production sites and their usage—the use of methamphetamine in the home results in elevated exposures to the occupants via airborne migration. When methamphetamine is smoked, between 50-80% of the substance is released from the user’s pipe. Of the inhaled material, between 10-33% of the nominal dose is not absorbed into the body but rather exhaled back into the ambient air, where the residue can settle on a myriad of surfaces; the methamphetamine residue can persist for months in rooms and buildings.
What Are the Health Effects of Methamphetamine Residue?
Contamination from smoking or making meth can leave behind enough methamphetamine residue on surfaces and ventilation systems that people and pets can suffer health problems similar to those of a chronic meth user. Side effects of coming into contact with methamphetamine residue include loss of appetite, mental cloudiness, itchy skin, dry eyes, irritability, paranoia, difficulty breathing, headaches, nervousness, anxiety; in more extreme cases, methamphetamine residue contact can cause convulsions and even death.
The risk of contact is especially greater when small children occupy a property where methamphetamine was previously manufactured or used as children may put contaminated objects into their mouths and their constant skin-to-surface contact while crawling on carpets where the residue may have settled.
Inspection & Testing
Signature Environmental performs all methamphetamine residue sampling following all state and federal guidelines. Our inspectors will perform a surface investigation for the presence of methamphetamine residue utilizing the wipe testing method. Signature Environmental uses a qualified accredited laboratory to analyze each sample.
Signature Environmental’s report clearly identifies if the inspected property’s sampled area is positive for methamphetamine residue. The reports will discuss testing procedures, applicable regulatory limits and regulations, and analytical results.
Regulations & Resources
Signature Environmental can help building owners and managers meet their regulatory requirements to test suspect materials.
California Health and Safety Code:
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA):
Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC):
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has developed a health-based standard for methamphetamine residue of 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimeters (µg/cm²) that provides the best current standard to use for reducing exposure to meth residue. (HSC Division 20 Chapter 6.9.1, Article 2, 25400.16)
The Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007 required EPA to develop guidelines for remediating former methamphetamine labs. This document provides those guidelines for States and local agencies to improve “our national understanding of identifying the point at which former methamphetamine laboratories become clean enough to inhabit again.” The legislation also required that EPA periodically update the guidelines, as appropriate, to reflect the best available knowledge and research.
The guidelines are geared towards state and local government personnel charged with remediating or otherwise addressing former methamphetamine (meth) labs. This document helps disseminate the best available knowledge and research on meth lab remediation and proves useful to cleanup contractors, and could be a resource for homeowners.
Does this document create new regulations for meth lab cleanup?
EPA prepared this document based on best current practices to provide voluntary cleanup guidelines to state and local governments, cleanup contractors, industrial hygienists, policymakers, and others involved in meth lab remediation. It does not set requirements but rather suggests a way of approaching meth lab remediation. Those using this document should also consult their appropriate municipal, county, or state guidance documents, regulations, and statutes. This document is not meant to supersede municipal, county, or state guidance documents, regulations, or statutes (however, this document may be useful as they develop and/or review and revise their own guidelines).
- For every pound of the finished product of methamphetamine, 5 to 6 pounds of waste was left behind.
- The majority of domestic methamphetamine is produced in “Mom-and-Pop” cook laboratories in home kitchens, workshops, recreational vehicles, and rural cabins.
- Small children especially have a greater risk as children may put contaminated objects into their mouths and their constant skin-to-surface contact while crawling on carpets or floors where the residue may have settled.
- Many People Live in Former Meth Labs and Don’t Know It. When the occupants of a residence have been using the dwelling as a meth lab, the carpet and walls are likely to be deeply contaminated by chemical spills and the release of toxic vapors. Unfortunately, this effectively renders the affected rooms unfit for human habitation, and without a thorough and costly cleaning process, the environment can be highly hazardous to anyone living there. In many cases, landlords and realtors will not know that the property is a former meth lab.
- Exposure to meth residues may cause symptoms similar to those experienced by meth users. Exposure to VOCs may cause nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and breathing difficulties. Some VOCs may cause cancer.