There’s growing awareness that it’s not just methamphetamine, or P, labs contaminating homes. Smoking the drug can also make them unhealthy.
While Auckland Council has just revealed tough new rules to clean up homes contaminated by meth, it admits its focus has been on the producers of the drug and not its users.
Nicholas Powell is a scientist whose company tests homes for meth contamination. Swabs are taken from walls and surfaces and are then analyzed, not only for the drug itself but also the ingredients used to make it.
“It’s not uncommon to just see methamphetamine on the swab,” he says.
That indicates the contamination is solely due to smoking the drug, and can be at levels in excess of the Health Ministry’s acceptable limit.
“We might see up to one or two micrograms per 100 square centimeters, so potentially double or quadruple the Ministry of Health guidelines,” says Mr Powell. “There is no doubt the Ministry of Health guidelines can be exceeded by smoking, though it might be heavy smoking.”
Toxicologist Leo Schep says the biggest risk is to young children and people with heart conditions, with “long-term exposure over weeks, months, where they are in contact with surfaces that have methamphetamine on them, which can lead to toxicity”.
There’s growing awareness of meth contamination caused by consumption but not manufacture as more and more property buyers and investors carry out precautionary testing of homes, even where police are not involved.
Councils meanwhile are only now getting fully to grips with the problem. Auckland has revealed it’s drawn up new protocols to deal with affected homes that include forcing owners to decontaminate to an acceptable level.
“What we’re seeing now with the volume of homes affected is that it’s necessary to put in safe standards so when homes are reoccupied, people can do so safely,” says Auckland Council compliance manager Grant Barnes.
He wasn’t aware of contamination due solely to consumption but said the protocols will be applied regardless of how the contamination occurs, but only if it comes to council’s attention.