A California property owner reached out to a biohazard remediation company called Eco Bear regarding a property he owned that he worried had been used as a math lab. He wasn’t 100 percent certain that this illicit activity occurred at the property, although he believed there were many signs of a meth lab having been operated on the 800 square food premises.
In addition to concerns about the hazardous remnants within the premises, the gentleman was also concerned about possible soil contamination by meth existing on the property grounds. He was also concerned that the septic tank might contain contamination from the prior operation of a meth lab. Before deeply discussing what is involved in meth lab cleanup, a review of the signs of an existing or former meth lab is necessary.
Signs of an Existing or Former Meth Lab
Identifying whether a location currently is or has been a meth lab can be challenging. With that noted, there are several signs to look out for that can indicate the presence of an operating meth lab or the prior existence of one at a particular location.
A strong chemical smell is one of the most common signs of a meth lab. This odor has been described as smelling like ammonia, ether, or even cat urine. The odor may be particularly strong in the area surrounding the location.
Meth labs often have their windows covered or blacked out to prevent people from seeing what’s happening inside.
Unusual Amounts of Chemicals
Meth labs require a variety of different chemicals to manufacture the drug. If you notice large amounts of these chemicals, such as acetone, iodine, or drain cleaner, it may be a sign of a meth lab.
Meth labs often use glassware, such as beakers and test tubes, to mix and store chemicals. The glassware may be found in and around the location.
Meth labs can be dangerous places, and it’s common to find burn marks or other evidence of fires or explosions. These marks may be found on the location’s walls, floors, or ceilings.
The walls, floors, and other surfaces in a meth lab may be discolored due to the chemicals used in the manufacturing process. The discoloration may be yellow, brown, or orange.
Meth labs can produce a lot of waste, including empty chemical containers, used coffee filters, and other trash. This trash may be found in and around the location and may be dumped in nearby areas.
Meth labs can be messy and dangerous, and the people running them may not have the time or resources to keep the property in good condition. The property may appear neglected, with overgrown vegetation, broken windows, or other signs of disrepair.
Commonly Occurring Health Consequences of Exposure to a Former Meth Lab
Properly remediating the aftermath of a meth lab is vital to protect against potential health consequences of coming into contact with this drug and other hazards associated with its production. Exposure to a former meth lab can be extremely harmful and can have serious health consequences on individuals, with short-term and long-term effects that can last for years. The potential health problems include:
Exposure to hazardous chemicals in meth labs, such as anhydrous ammonia, phosphine gas, and hydrochloric acid, can cause respiratory problems, such as difficulty breathing, coughing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can persist even after the individual is no longer exposed to these chemicals.
Headaches and Dizziness
Prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals from a former meth lab can cause headaches, dizziness, and lightheadedness, making it difficult to carry out daily activities.
Skin Irritation and Rashes
Hazardous chemicals and other substances used in meth production can cause skin irritation, rashes, and burns. These symptoms can be painful and cause long-term skin damage, leading to scarring and other complications.
Nausea and Vomiting
Exposure to dangerous chemicals in a former meth lab can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can be severe and last for days, making it difficult for the individual to eat or drink properly.
Eye and Throat Irritation
Meth production releases toxic fumes that can irritate the eyes and throat. This can lead to redness, itching, and burning sensations. In severe cases, exposure to these fumes can cause permanent damage to the eyes and throat, leading to vision problems and difficulty breathing.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals can have long-term effects on the nervous system, leading to seizures, tremors, and memory loss. These symptoms can be severe and make it difficult for the individual to carry out daily activities.
Liver and Kidney Damage
Meth production and exposure to hazardous chemicals can cause damage to the liver and kidneys, leading to chronic health problems. These problems can be severe, leading to other complications, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Increased Risk of Cancer
Exposure to hazardous chemicals in a former meth lab can increase the risk of several types of cancer, including lung, liver, and kidney cancer. These risks are particularly high for individuals exposed to meth production for prolonged periods.
Developmental Problems in Children
Children exposed to hazardous chemicals in meth labs can suffer developmental problems, such as learning difficulties, behavioral problems, and developmental delays. These problems can be severe and have long-term effects on the child’s health and well-being.
Meth Lab Soil and Sceptic Tank Contamination
Soil contamination from a meth lab can seriously affect human health and the environment. Understanding the risks involved in soil contamination from meth labs and the importance of taking action to prevent contamination and clean up affected sites is essential. In addition, a meth lab can contaminate a septic tank when waste from the illicit operations is dumped into the septic system. In addition, dangerous substances can leach into a septic system through contaminated soil.
Meth labs can contaminate soil and septic tanks with hazardous chemicals like hydrochloric acid, lithium, and anhydrous ammonia. The chemicals used in meth production can remain in the soil for years and can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested or breathed in.
Soil and septic tank contamination from meth labs can be difficult and expensive to clean up, often requiring the removal and disposal of contaminated soil. This process can be time-consuming and costly and requires specialized equipment and expertise. The contaminated soil must be carefully disposed of to prevent further environmental harm.
Essential Steps to Remediate the Site of a Former Meth Lab
An array of steps need to be taken to completely and safely remediate the dangers located at the site of a former meth lab.
Identification of Meth Lab Site
The first step in the remediation process is identifying the site where the meth lab operates. This may involve a visual inspection of the property and interviewing neighbors, landlords, and other individuals who may have information about the lab.
Notification of Appropriate Authorities
Once the site has been identified, the appropriate authorities, such as the police, fire department, and health department, should be notified immediately.
Evaluation of the site to determine the extent of contamination: An evaluation of the site is then conducted to determine the extent of contamination. This involves taking samples of air, soil, and water to determine the level of chemical contamination.
Removal of Hazardous Materials and Waste
The next step is to remove all hazardous materials and waste from the site. This may include removing chemicals, equipment, and other materials used in the meth lab.
Decontaminating the site and surrounding areas: Once the hazardous materials have been removed, the site and surrounding areas must be decontaminated. This involves cleaning all surfaces, including walls, floors, ceilings, and any furniture or other items that may have been contaminated.
Plumbing and Electrical System Inspection and Repair
The plumbing and electrical systems in the property are then inspected and repaired if necessary. This is to ensure that there are no leaks or other issues that could lead to further contamination.
Restoration of Any Damaged Structures or Surfaces
If any structures or surfaces have been damaged during the meth lab operation, they must be restored to their original condition. This may involve repairing walls, ceilings, or floors, or replacing damaged items.
Proper Disposal of Hazardous Materials and Waste
All hazardous materials and waste must be disposed of properly, following local and state regulations. This may involve using a licensed hazardous waste disposal company.
Follow-up testing and monitoring to ensure continued safety: Finally, follow-up testing and monitoring should be conducted to ensure that the property continues to be safe for use. This may involve periodic air quality testing or other measures to detect any potential issues.
In conclusion and as mentioned previously, obtaining professional assistance to remediate a former meth lab site is vital. The stark reality is that the only sure way safe and effective meth lab cleanup can occur is through the work of an experienced professional.