Frequently Asked Questions

What is methamphetamine?
How is meth made?
How is meth used?
What is a Clandestine Drug Lab?
Why are clandestine labs hazardous?
What are the risks for my infants and children?
I am buying a home and want to know if, and when, I should request a meth test?
How can I tell if my home was a meth lab?  What are the signs of a meth lab that I should look for?
I am concerned that my home might have been used as a meth lab previously. What should I do? 
Can I use the home test kits from building supply stores?
I am selling my home and meth tests came back positive. What do I do now?
Am I required to disclose that my home was contaminated with meth even though it has been properly decontaminated?
Do I need to be concerned about a positive test, when I know that there was not a lab there previously?
What are the health effects of meth?
What are the long term health effects of meth?
For the year 2007, how many homes were contaminated with meth in Utah?
How do Utah’s meth seizure numbers compare with other states?
Who can I call to clean up my property?
Can I remediate my home myself?
What are the clean up requirements?
What is Rule 392-600?
What is a Certified Decontamination Specialist?
How do I become a Certified Decontamination Specialist?
How much will remediation cost?
How long will the decontamination process take?
Will I be expected to move out of my home during the decontamination process?
What are the environmental effects of meth?
What are the social/economic effects/costs of meth?
Meth labs are declining in Utah. Why should I still be concerned about meth?
What are Utah’s decontamination standards?
Why were those standards chosen?

What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (meth, ice, crystal, glass, speed, chalk, or tina) is a highly addictive, synthetic, stimulant drug that activates the pleasure centers in your brain. Amphetamine, which is the parent drug of meth, has been used legally as nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. However, the effects of meth are much more potent, longer lasting, and more harmful to the central nervous system than amphetamine.
http://www.endmethnow.org/whatismeth/

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How is meth made?

Meth can be made, or "cooked," from over-the-counter medications and a variety of common household items such as paint thinner, anhydrous ammonia, iodine crystals, red phosphorus, drain cleaner, battery acid, and lithium. Some labs cook meth in homes, motel rooms, automobiles, parks – almost anywhere. Labs can be made mobile, changing locations with different parts of the cooking process.
Recently, there has been a shift in meth production and a majority (80-90‰) of the meth used in Utah is being imported from Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, as well as many super labs in California.  
More information on different production methods can be found in Production Methods.

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How is meth used?

Meth can be ingested orally, snorted nasally, injected intravenously, or smoked.

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What is a Clandestine Drug Lab?

Clandestine means secret and refers to labs where illicit drugs are manufactured. Clandestine labs can produce drugs such as MDMA (ecstacy). Methamphetamine, LSD, and Gamma-hydroxy butyrate (date rape drug).
http://www.honolulupd.org/nv/clanlab.htm#drugs

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Why are clandestine labs hazardous?

Labs where meth has been produced are dangerous for several reasons:

  1. Labs use a variety of chemicals that are extremely toxic and flammable and the potential of an explosion is high.
  2. Some of the chemicals are red phosphorous, anhydrous ammonia, iodine, and hydrochloric acid which can be extremely dangerous when mixed. (for specific information on each chemical, check out the Toxicology of Meth section).
  3. Often labs have booby traps, poisonous gases, and chemical contamination and require trained professionals to dismantle and clean up.
  4. Each pound of methamphetamine produces 5-6 pounds  of toxic waste.

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What are the risks for my infants and children?

Although, research is still underway about how meth exposure will impact infants and children a study from National Jewish Medical Research Center reported anecdotal symptoms from meth labs* such as: 
Asthma,
Pulmonary fibrosis,
Upper respiratory complaints

*Note:  It is unknown whether these symptoms are from meth, or the chemicals used in cooking meth.

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I am buying a home and want to know if, and when, I should request a meth test?

If there is known police report indicating a clandestine drug lab was on the property, then remediation is required (per Rule 392-600). Absent police reports, if you suspect meth contamination, you should get a test from a certified decontamination specialist. Many local health departments do not accept tests from any other source than a certified decontamination specialist.

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How can I tell if my home was a meth lab?  What are the signs of a meth lab that I should look for?

  • A large amount of cold tablet containers that list Ephedrine or Pseudoephedrine as ingredients.
  • Jars containing clear liquid with a white or red colored solid on the bottom.
  • Jars labeled as containing iodine or dark shiny metallic purple crystals inside of jars.
  • Jars labeled as containing Red Phosphorus or a fine dark red or purple powder.
  • Coffee filters containing a white pasty substance, a dark red sludge, or small amounts of shiny white crystals.
  • Bottles labeled as containing Sulfuric, Muriatic or Hydrochloric Acid.
  • Bottles or jars with rubber tubing attached.
  • Glass cookware or frying pans containing a powdery residue.
  • An unusually large number of cans of Camp Fuel, paint thinner, acetone, starter fluid, Lye, and drain cleaners containing Sulfuric Acid or bottles containing Muriatic Acid.
  • Large amounts of lithium batteries, especially ones that have been stripped.
  • Soft silver or gray metallic ribbon (in chunk form) stored in oil or Kerosene.
  • Propane tanks with fittings that have turned blue.
  • Occupants of residence going outside to smoke.
  • Strong smell of urine, or unusual chemical smells like ether, ammonia or acetone. http://www.dea.gov/concern/clandestine_indicators.html

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I am concerned that my home might have been used as a meth lab previously. What should I do? 

If there are police reports regarding clandestine drug lab activity on the property, then the guidelines associated with Rule 392-600 must be followed. Regardless, the first step is to contact the local health department in the county where the property is located. Some counties have ordinances that require clean up of all properties that exceed the 0.1 µg/100cm² standard.
If no local ordinances are available, Rule 392-600 can be used as a guideline for property remediation.

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Can I use the home test kits from building supply stores?

Home test kits are currently only recommended as a screening test. These home kits only show a positive or negative test. The kits do not show how much meth is present. The level of meth is critical to show that the property has been decontaminated successfully.

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I am selling my home and meth tests came back positive. What do I do now?

The property owner is always responsible for remediation costs. If there is a history of clandestine drug lab police reports on the property, then the guidelines associated with Rule 392-600 must be followed. Regardless, the first step is to contact the local health department in the county where the property is located. Some counties have ordinances that require clean up of all properties that exceed the standard of 0.1 µg/100cm²* (micrograms per 100 centimeters squared).
If no local ordinances are available, Rule 392-600 can be used as a guideline for property remediation. *Note that some test results may read as mcg/100cm². This notation is equal to µg/100cm² and both read as micrograms per 100 centimeter squared.

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Am I required to disclose that my home was contaminated with meth even though it has been properly decontaminated?

Currently, properties that are known labs reported by the police must be placed on a Contaminated Property List until they have been decontaminated. Once the property has been decontaminated, it is removed from the list. There are no laws currently in place requiring disclosure about meth contamination once it has been properly decontaminated and removed from the Contaminated Property List.

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Do I need to be concerned about a positive test, when I know that there was not a lab there previously?

Although scientific research is under way to determine health effects of meth residue and significant headway has recently been made, there are no current health based levels of meth contamination. The current Rule 392-600 only requires properties that have clearly been laboratories to be remediated. At this point, it is recommended to use the Rule 392-600 as remediation guidelines for properties with contamination that exceeds the standard limit.

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What are the health effects of meth?

Methamphetamine (meth) works on the centers of the brain that increase the release of dopamine, which is a chemical (neurotransmitter) that normally helps to regulate and elevate mood. The meth molecule damages the system that allows the brain cells to transfer messages and the ability to repair this system is limited.
Because of the way meth interacts with the body, even small amounts of meth can cause any variety of the following:

Increased wakefulness              Increased physical activity
Decreased appetite                               Increased respiration
Rapid heart rate                                    Irregular heat beat
Increased blood pressure                      Increased body temperature
Irritability                                              Anxiety
Insomnia                                               Confusion
Tremors                                               Convulsions
Cardiovascular collapse                        Altered judgment and inhibition
Nervousness                                         Paranoia
Depression

There is currently no research that determines specific health effects at various levels of surface meth contamination exposure.

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What are the long term health effects of meth?

There is currently no scientific research showing long term health effects of surface methamphetamine exposure. The only research available shows the long term effects of actually using meth. Consistently using meth over time changes how the brain can function because the brain cells become damaged. The emotion and memory regions of the brain are most affected by meth. Abusers of meth will exhibit many of the following:

Paranoia
Aggressiveness
Extreme anorexia
Memory loss
Visual and auditory Hallucinations
Delusions
Dental problems
Self absorption
Violent behavior
Open sores

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For the year 2007, how many homes were contaminated with meth in Utah?

Because reporting is not standardized at every local health department, it is difficult to estimate the number of contaminated homes. Two health departments in the northern part of the state had a combined total of 142 meth contaminated homes with 3 labs reported by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

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How do Utah’s meth seizure numbers compare with other states?

In general, Western states have a higher rate of meth abuse than Eastern states. Here is a comparison of other Western Central states: (For a full 50 state comparison, click HERE)
State                                     Kilogram (kg) of meth seized in 2007
Missouri                                            40.0
Utah                                                 31.9 
South Dakota                                    18.7
Kansas                                             14.7
Oklahoma                                           9.8
Colorado                                             8.0
Iowa                                                   5.3
Montana                                              3.4
Wyoming                                             2.7
North Dakota                                      1.1

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Who can I call to clean up my property?

Certified Decontamination Specialists have passed a test and been certified by the Department of Environmental Quality to remediate properties contaminated with meth. Click HERE for a list of certified specialists or go to the website below: http://www.superfund.utah.gov/docs/ContractorList.pdf

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Can I remediate my home myself?

As long as protocols are followed and the final sampling falls below the decontamination standard (0.1 µg/100cm²), the owner of record can remediate their own property. Rule 392-600-5 describes the requirements for remediating your property. If you are the owner of record and choose to remediate your property, you must comply with all federal, state, municipal, and local laws, rules, ordinances, and regulations in the decontamination process.

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What are the clean up requirements?

Refer to Rule 392-600 for complete requirements. Items described as "porous" have different requirements than "non-porous" items. The final sampling test must be less than 0.1 µg/100cm².

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What is Rule 392-600?

Rule 392-600 is a State rule that currently only applies to properties which have had police reports of clandestine drug lab activity. The rule specifies pre-assessment, sampling, work plan, decontamination standards, and final reporting. For complete and specific instructions, please refer to the Rule itself. Rule 392-600 explains:

  1. "Porous" versus "non porous" material, and what material must be discarded.
  2. Items that must be included in a work plan.
  3. Decontamination procedures.
  4. How to do sampling, including material to use, how many times to wipe, how many samples are required, and (in some cases) where to sample.
  5. Confirmation sampling — process to make sure your property is decontaminated.
  6. Final Reports and how to get the property off the health department's list of contaminated properties.

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What is a Certified Decontamination Specialist?

A Certified Decontamination Specialist is certified by the Department of Environmental Quality and is well-versed in Utah's meth decontamination regulations.

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How do I become a Certified Decontamination Specialist? 

The Department of Environmental Quality oversees the certification program for decontamination specialists. The program requires an application with a fee, Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA) certification, and passing an examination (a score of 80% or higher). The certification is effective for 2 years and the recertification process requires current OSHA certification and re-examination. For more information about this program click HERE.

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How much will remediation cost?

Remediation costs vary depending on the size of the home, the extent of the contamination, and the company decontaminating your home. The Department recommends calling a number of different decontamination specialists and obtaining several different bids before beginning the process.

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How long will the decontamination process take?

The length of the decontamination process varies from several weeks to several months. The time needed is dependent on the size of the home, extent of the contamination, and the company performing the decontamination. When calling decontamination specialists, be sure to ask about their estimated time of completion.

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Will I be expected to move out of my home during the decontamination process?

The decontamination process, as set forth by the Rule 392-600, requires securing the contaminated areas against unauthorized access until decontamination is complete.

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What are the environmental effects of meth?

The environmental and social effects of meth are significant. Meth labs can cause soil and water contamination, create fires, and kill livestock and vegetation because of the chemicals involved in the cook process. For each pound of meth manufactured, 5-6 pounds of hazardous waste are created. Often meth "cooks" will dump waste into water wells, farmland, and mine shafts, creating public health hazards.

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What are the social/economic effects/costs of meth?

Meth use and abuse has impacts those responsible for toxic waste clean up, law enforcement, courts, corrections, health care, child welfare, child protective services, mental health services, school costs, loss of productivity in occupations, developmental delays in unborn children, families, property damage, and other unknown related costs.

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Meth labs are declining in Utah. Why should I still be concerned about meth?

Related to precursor restriction laws and increased emphasis on meth, labs throughout the state have been steadily declining since 2003. However, in Western states, such as Utah, meth is still considered the primary drug threat by law enforcement and public health officials. About 80-90% of meth in Utah comes from Mexican poly-drug trafficking and is imported from Mexico and Southern California. The availability of meth is supported by data from the Drug Enforcement Agency for the Western Region, which show that treatment admissions for meth addictions have increased 78% since 2001.  
 http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/cngrtest/ct042000.htm
http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs26/26594/ocdetf.htm#WC

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What are Utah’s decontamination standards?

Utah currently uses 0.1 µg/100cm² as the decontamination standard. Back to Top
 
Why were those standards chosen?

In 2005, environmental health scientists from around the State gathered, analyzed, and compared the most current research available regarding meth contamination. These findings were compared to other state’s standards taking note of information and research that was not available (such as the health effects of surface meth contamination at various levels). The 0.1 µg/100cm² level was chosen as the standard at that time to provide as much protection of the public’s health as possible, given the unknown variables. As additional research is completed to provide scientific, health based data, the standard can, and will be, amended.

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Last updated: 18 November 2008