Meth labs are highly dangerous. The hazards associated with meth labs exist not only when they are in operation but because of the contamination that follows their existence. In other words, the site of a meth lab (and even the surrounding environs) can be highly hazardous to third parties after a meth cook finishes using a location to make the highly addictive, illegal drug.
Contamination of the location by methamphetamine itself is only part of the dangerous aftermath created by a meth lab. A meth lab can also result in the contamination of a property by dangerous solvents used in making methamphetamine. These hazardous solvents include:
- Formic acid
- Hydriodic acid
- Methyl alcohol or methanol
Formic acid is classified as what is known as an organic acid. It comes in the form of a colorless liquid. Formic acid has an unpleasant odor. Used in the manufacturing of meth, formic acid is both highly corrosive and toxic. In addition, contact between formic acid and oxidizing agents can result in an explosion. An explosion is most likely to occur when a meth lab is in operation. However, the possibility also exists that formic acid might come into contact with an oxidizing agent after the actual process of making meth has concluded.
Another solvent used in making meth is hexane. A colorless liquid, hexane gives off a mild odor. Hexane is particularly dangerous because it is a central nervous system toxin. As a consequence, exposure to hexane can cause serious health issues. Chronic exposure to hexane can result in extensive damage to a person’s central nervous system. In the aftermath of the operation of a meth lab, the exposure to hexane at the site can result in the ingesting of the chemical through inhalation, contact with the skin, eye contact, and via oral ingestion.
Hydriodic acid is an important solvent in meth-making. Technically, this chemical is the principal solvent used in the reduction of pseudoephedrine. It is the process that breaks down pseudoephedrine molecules to create methamphetamine. Although not considered as toxic as some of the other solvents that can be found in the aftermath of the operation of a meth lab, hydriodic acid is nonetheless a highly corrosive form of acid and can present a danger to people who inadvertently come into contact with this solvent.
Benzyne is a dangerous solvent used in the production of meth. Benzyne presents as a colorless to yellowish liquid. It is classified as what is known as an aromatic hydrocarbon. What this means is that benzyne gives of what oftentimes is described as a sweet or even pleasant odor. Exposure to benzyne can be hazardous to a person’s health. Exposure to benzyne is known to cause cancer. Benzyne is also a flammable solvent.
Methyl Alcohol or Methanol
Yet another type of solvent that can be found in the aftermath of a meth lab’s operation is methyl alcohol or methanol. Methanol is a colorless liquid. It does have an odor. Methanol is flammable. In addition, methanol is toxic. One of the more commonplace health risks exposure to methanol presents is found in the fact that such exposure can cause blindness in some cases.
Steps to Take If a Meth Lab Is Suspected
Because of the significant dangers that can exist in a building in which a meth lab was operated, there are certain specific steps that need to be taken when such a discovery is made. These include:
- First, if you believe that a meth lab was operated in a particular location, you need to get out of the site immediately.
- In addition, you need to prevent entry into the space by anyone else.
- Notify law enforcement, explaining that you believe you’ve found a site that is the location of a meth lab or former meth lab. (Depending on the state of the site, the contamination may be so significant that a HAZMAT team is called in to perform an initial remediation of the area.)
- Once law enforcement is finished with its work at a meth lab site, you should seek out professional meth decontamination assistance.
What to Do If You’ve Been Exposed to a Meth Lab Site
If you think you’ve been exposed to the aftermath of a meth lab site, you need to seek medical attention immediately. You need to advise your physician that you believe you may have had contact with what was once a meth lab.
On a related note, if you discover that you’ve been in a location where meth users smoked the drug, you may have been exposed to contamination by methamphetamine. This type of exposure to meth residue can also result in negative health consequences for you. As a result, if you feel you’ve been exposed to a location when meth was smoked, you need to seek prompt medical attention.