With the startling levels of methamphetamine use reported in Western Australia, it comes as no surprise that people are starting to ask about the impact.
Methamphetamine is a concoction of chemicals also known as meth, speed, ice, shards, glass, crank, crystal meth, whiz and goey. And probably some more we don’t know about yet!
A common way to use the drug is to smoke it. The vapour is released in to the air and the chemical residue settles on any nearby surfaces. This is not always visible (although there are several warning signs) but often goes undetected. The chemical is not biodegradable and therefore does not break down.
Once a house has been exposed to meth, the molecules stick to surfaces like the walls and floors and can even penetrate through to the insulation. This type of exposure is especially dangerous for young children who tend to put their hands in their mouths after crawling around or playing with toys on the floor.
Places where meth has been produced or “cooked” in clandestine labs will have been exposed to a whole different level of chemical contamination. The contamination can remain in the home long after the manufacturers have moved out.
Common exposure is through skin contact with surfaces containing meth residue or though inhalation of chemicals and organic compounds.
There are no scientific papers proving the direct impact of contact with the drug – but we are still early in the process. Once upon a time there was no medical proof that asbestos, tobacco smoke or lead paint led to medical conditions with grave outcomes.
Stories from around the world show short-term exposure can lead to serious health issues with side effects including headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, disrupted sleep, eye irritation, anxiety, respiratory problems, rashes, children with inattention or ADHD-like behaviour. Over a long period, possible damage to the liver and kidneys, neurological problems, and increased risk of cancer can occur.
Children with their smaller bodies and more chances of contact exposure are more vulnerable.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have set guidelines on the acceptable levels of residue from these productions in places of residency. It also oversees the methodology used to take these samples.
Andrew is an accredited Inspector for Methamphetamine sampling using Immunoassay Rapid Test under NIOSH 9111. (Certification ID: MTK-254-AUS)
Screening for methamphetamine in the home is very common in New Zealand and becoming more common in the Eastern States. Western Australia will not be far behind.
We cannot comment on the safety but the Australian Guideline for residential areas is below the level of 0.5µg/100cm2.
We run our tests to this level.
In areas not normally accessed by adults & children, such as roof voids and subfloors, the acceptable level is 2.5µg /100cm2. In New Zealand the acceptable guideline level for general living is now 1.5µg/100cm2.
The residue is just that, residue.
Lower levels, such as that from simple smoking, can be cleaned from surfaces such as walls and ceilings using something like sugar soap followed by a sealer and fresh paint.
Higher level readings from suspected lab areas may require removal of building materials to effectively remove the concentrated residue.
There are professional companies selling services to do these clean ups but some are taking advantage of the hype and charging huge fees for a simple clean.