**Meth House Nightmare
**A common misconception about meth labs is that a meth lab is a place where
methamphetamine is manufactured. Colorado Statutes defines a meth lab so liberally
that it includes places where meth has been used or manufacturing equipment, wastes
or chemicals have been stored. Making things more risky is the fact that a house may
receive the meth lab designation on the word of a trash collector, or other untrained
When a house is designated a meth house, law enforcement officers may arrive
unannounced, evict the residents with no belongings and close the building to all but
law enforcement personnel and industrial hygienists (IH). It’s estimated that there are
about 2400 meth labs in residential buildings in Colorado.
The owners may have the property tested by an IH and released after proper
remediation. At this time, a Decision Statement is issued. If the IH issuing the
statement is properly credentialed, the owner is then protected from future lawsuits.
This must be done within 120 days. The catch is that every item in the building must
be tested and cleared by an IH. Because the expense usually prohibits this, all the
contents of the home are often destroyed.
If remediation requirements are not met, the governing body will seize the property,
rehab it and sell it to pay their expenses. The owner usually receives nothing except
debt, even if the property was purchased from a person who covered up the evidence
of meth manufacturing. Unless it can proven that he/she knew about the meth and
purposely hid the evidence, you probably have no recourse.
There is new legislation in process that will require disclosure if it is known that a
property has ever been a meth house. It has even been suggested that every house
sold in Colorado be inspected for meth. This provision is not likely to pass since it
would add about $5000 to each sale in the form of industrial hygienist fees.
The dangers that go along with meth houses include exposure to cancer causing
chemicals that can saturate walls, carpets and other building materials as well as all
contents. Lead and mercury are common byproducts. Chemicals, such as solvents, may
be disposed of in plumbing or simple poured on the ground. If not removed properly
these can cause various health problems.
The most immediate danger is the meth manufacturer. Meth causes extreme paranoia
and symptoms similar to OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. Howard Hughes had OCD.
In the movie, The Aviator, there were scenes where Hughes locked himself in a dark
room out of fear (paranoia). He collected junk and bottles of urine. He lived amongst
the growing clutter. This is similar to meth houses that have been raided. Meth users
called “Tinkle Tweekers” even save their urine in bottles stored in living areas to
reclaim the unmetabolized meth from the urine.
Most people with OCD are pretty harmless except to themselves. The paranoid meth
user can be very dangerous according to police reports. They are often reported to
have large, sometimes bizarre, weapon collections that may be heavy on knives.
Booby traps are reportedly set to protect the person’s meth stash. If you encounter a
property where the residents appear to have OCD, and the residents act strangely,
leave immediately. You could be in danger.
Meth users and manufacturers include people from all lifestyles. Doctors, lawyers and
dentists are no more immune than factory workers or roofers. Meth labs are found in
neighborhoods from affluent to poor.
When you enter a property take a deep breath. A cat urine smell is often associated
with meth. Other odors to be aware of are ammonia, vanilla, solvents or metallic
smells. These are warning signs.
Meth users sometimes become obsessive about objects. They may dismantle things like
remote controls, watches or electronic devices. The objects can sometimes be found
in a pile dismantled down to the smallest part.
Large amounts of household products are a tip off. Common products are used to
manufacture meth that can found in an average home, except in a meth lab large
quantities of common items may be in odd places. If you see multiple packages of lye,
Heet, Coleman fuel, peroxide, pseudo-ephedrine or coffee filters in odd places, like
stored in a bathroom, closet or kitchen, this is an indication that it may be wise to
forget any involvement in the property. The occupant may be a warehouse club
shopper with no sense of organization, but he/she may not be.
Propane bottles, or fire extinguishers, that have been altered, or have a blue stain on
the connector, may indicate that anhydrous ammonia has been stored in the
container. Anhydrous ammonia can be explosive in the right circumstances. It reacts
with the metal leaving the connector corroded.
Iodine may be used in meth manufacturing. Iodine is a substance that goes from solid
to gas state without becoming liquid. It sticks to everything and spreads on contact.
Iodine stains walls and everything else. The stain may be red or yellow. It may be very
noticeable if a photo, or other wall hanging is moved, revealing the contrast between
stained and unstained.
Meth labs may be hidden behind false walls or other building alterations. Alterations
that make no sense should be suspect, such as: exhaust fans mounted where they have
no logical use; bootlegged power supply; rooms that are unexplainably small.
Inspection Perfection provides a quick, inexpensive test kit to detect minute residue
from the use or manufacture of amphetamine or methamphetamine. A sterile swab is
rubbed over a surface where residue may be left from smoking or handling meth. The
swab is immersed in a reagent that turns purple or blue if amphetamine or
methamphetamine residue is present.
A positive test may happen in places where meth has been used, as well as
manufactured. This test is for the actual residue of the drug only. It doesn’t test for
chemicals used in the manufacture or those that are produced in the process. A
positive test tells you to proceed with caution.
The following list by: Chemist Lynn Riemer Of The North Metro Drug Task Force
Meth lab signs
•Yellow discoloration on walls, drains, sinks and showers
•Blue discoloration on valves of propane tanks and fire extinguishers
•Fire detectors that are removed or taped off
•Experiencing physical symptoms while inside the house, such as burning in your
eyes or throat, itching, a metallic taste in your mouth and breathing problems
•Unusual strong odors that smell like materials from a garage, such as solvent and
paint thinner, cat urine or ammonia
•The use of security cameras and surveillance equipment
Signs that property owners should look for with their homes and tenants:
• Tenants who behave oddly and are extremely thin, have open sores, bad teeth or
•Large amounts of trash with items such as lithium batteries, torn-apart matchbooks,
water bottles, cold medicine packs and antifreeze containers
•Discolored coffee filters that are not brown
•Plexiglas or other dark-colored cookware
•Glass containers with two layered liquids and chemistry sets
Thanks to Caoimhin Connors, our IH who provided the basic info for this article. He
consulted with CO state Senator Brandon about the presently proposed legislation. He
was also involved in writing the present meth lab laws. His recently updated website
(2/06) provides info on current CO meth lab regulations: http://www.forensicapplications.