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Mold, Lead, and Leftover Meth Update - Watch Out for These Signs

Last week, I wrote about the New York Times story featuring Rhonda and Jason Holt and the health problems they have stemming from living in their "dream home," which unbeknownst to them is a former meth lab.

I spent some time scouring the web looking for signs that a house has been used as a meth lab.

What I found is that there are areas in the country where this is a big (and growing bigger) problem - especially in those communities where foreclosures are also a problem. Take a look at the Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) map of meth lab incidents to see that California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky are big meth lab states. Of those, California, Illinois, and Michigan are also at the top of the list for foreclosures.

Boulder County, Colorado's public health department has a website that offers information for neighbors on recognizing when an abandoned or foreclosed house has turned into a meth lab, including weird traffic patterns, non-stop partying, and occupants who don't seem to work and look like they never bathe.

The Columbia County (Oregon) Methamphetamine Action Team offers an online "Meth Houses Community Awareness" brochure that contains information on spotting a meth lab as well as a neighborhood activity log to help you identify a drug den. The brochure suggests you watch out for the following:

  • Garage doors that never open
  • Blinds always closed or windows that are boarded up
  • Chemical containers being brought in/out or left on the premises
  • Drug paraphernalia found in the neighborhood
  • 1 to 5-gallon jugs
  • Chemical or caustic smells emitting from the house or vehicles
  • Construction noises (people may be building interior rooms to conceil marijuana growing operations
  • Occupants who never leave/do not work, smoke outside, don't watch their children (who never go to school), and throw frequent parties at all hours
  • High level of traffic to and from the house
  • Increased crime, including vehicle thefts, burglaries, stolen mail, identity theft
Inside the house, you might see these signs indicating a former meth lab, according to Pillar to Post, a nationwide home inspection company:

Smell: A strong cat urine smell, ether, ammonia, vinegar, or solvent smells.
Physical evidence: Blister packs of ephedrine, cylinders, evidence of anhydrous ammonia, or hydrochloric acid, evidence of empty solvent containers, mason jars, plastic tubing, rock salt, hydrogen peroxide, lithium batteries and coffee filters with red stains.
Additional evidence: Yellow or red stains on countertops, carpets or linoleum and blacked out windows, or those covered with foil.

One interesting sign of the times, in Mesa County, Arizona (an area struck hard by foreclosures and methamphetamie abuse), laws were passed starting in 2004 regarding meth lab disclosure and clean up. Here's what the "real estate law" says:

  • The seller of the property must disclose the existence of a meth lab OR
  • Is responsible for the consequences after the buyer has had it tested and found it to be contaminated.
  • Requires testing to be performed by a certified industrial hygienist or industrial hygienist as defined (CRS).
  • Buyer has up to three years to take action.

Hmmm. I wonder if that applies to banks and bank-owned REOs as well. Anyone want to weigh in? I'm more than game to continue the discussion.

Read More:
Mold, Lead, and Leftover Meth Causing Heartache for Homeowners

Image courtesy of Pillar to Post
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