Methamphetamine contamination of a property necessitating professional meth decontamination can occur in three primary ways:

  • Meth lab
  • Meth storage
  • Meth use

This type of contamination occurs when people smoke meth, which is one of the more common ways in which people ingest meth. Many people understandably initially balk at the thought that using meth in a house or other building can result in a level of contamination that requires professional meth cleanup in order to return the premises to a safe and livable or usable condition. The world-renowned National Jewish Medical and Research Center conducted a research study designed to confirm the extent to which smoking meth causes dangerous contamination of a property. 

Research Study Methodology

Because of the hazardous nature of studying different aspects of meth production and use, researchers conducted the smoking contamination study in a room of an abandoned motel. The motel itself had become owned by the city of Thornton, Colorado, in the Denver-metro area. 

The motel room itself was also selected because it was similar to standard motel rooms in the United States. The room was comprised of a sleeping area with a bed and table. The space also had a closet and a bathroom. The motel room was about 250 square feet and had 8 feet high ceilings. During the experiment, the meth was “smoked” at the table, which was located midway along one of the walls in the motel room. 

When it comes to meth decontamination, sampling to ascertain what and where meth is present is fundamental. In advance of commencing this meth smoking contamination study, researchers undertook preliminary wipe sampling throughout the motel room to ascertain whether any meth contamination existed in the premises before the research project commenced. 

The areas in the motel room that were wipe sampled are listed here for two reasons. First, the sampling locations are listed to illustrate the reliability of the study. Second, the details are presented to provide an idea of how comprehensive meth testing sampling can be as part of a broader meth decontamination endeavor. 

  • Countertop next to cook area  
  • Mirror directly above the smoke area  
  • West wall a few feet north of the smoke area  
  • Table between beds, nine feet east of the smoke area  
  • Wall over the sink in the bathroom 12 feet from the smoke area  
  • Wall in the shower area about 14 feet from the smoke area  
  • Top of room heater 13 feet from the smoke area  

Bear in mind that in a “real” meth contamination testing this type of detailed sampling would occur from one room to another in larger premises like a home. Because of the operation of an HVAC system in a multiunit structure like a motel, meth contamination can spread from one room to another. Thus, sampling might become necessary in multiple rooms in such a real-world situation. 

Researchers in the National Jewish study followed a specific methodology for “smoking” meth in the study. Researchers used a smoking methodology suggested by the North Metro Drug Task Force in Thornton, Colorado. The smoking methodology itself was constructed through interview with multiple meth users. 

During the course of the study, four separate “smokes” were conducted in the motel room at the table located in the space. The initial two smokes consisted of using a meth pipe that was filled with 100 mg of methamphetamine. The meth had been manufactured in a controlled “cook” and had been analyzed was found to be 91 percent methamphetamine. The level of purity associated with the meth used in this study was considered to be greater than typical methamphetamine illicitly sold on the street. Street meth has a reported purity of less than 50 percent. 

The third “smoke” of the study used a pipe and a 250 mg of meth. The same meth with a 91 percent purity level was used in this session as well. 

The final “smoke” used a hot plate with an aluminum plate holding 2000 mg of meth. Again, the same meth with a 91 percent purity level was used.

The first two “smokes” were considered to be commonly used amounts of meth. The last two “smokes” were designed to provide data on the results of a large number of “smoking” sessions in a single location.

Results of Research Study

The simulated smoking of meth in the research study did confirm airborne meth in the motel. This was an anticipated outcome. Also as expected, the simulated smokes in the motel room resulted in aerosolized meth at varying levels based on the amount of meth “smoked” in a particular study segment.

The initial two “smokes” simulated the amount of meth likely to be used in a single instance by a solitary user. This level of use was thought to be comparable to what a typical meth addict would ingest in one sitting. The “smokes” with larger amounts of meth produced more extensive levels of airborne contamination.

The results of the study also demonstrated that smoking meth results in surface contamination. Surface contamination was found virtually everywhere in the motel room. Generally speaking, the concentration was greatest nearest the actual smoke site, which in this case was the table in the motel room. With that said, surface contamination was found elsewhere in the room.

Conclusions of Research Study

The National Jewish Medical and Research Center reached the following specific conclusions as the result of its meth smoking research study:

  • The smoking of meth inside a building results in airborne methamphetamine being released into the environment
  • The airborne levels will depend upon how much meth is smoked and the efficiency of the smoker’s technique in capturing the drug and depositing it in his or her lungs
  • The levels of meth found on surfaces within a structure like a motel room or house where it has only been smoked and not manufactured will likely be much lower than in a residence where it has been manufactured
  • If meth has been smoked in a residence, it is likely that children present within that structure will be exposed to airborne methamphetamine during the smoke and to surface meth after the smoke

In the final analysis, the research study underscored the reality that the health hazards associated with meth use can be pervasive. Meth can contaminate the site of meth smoking even after the use of the drug has concluded.