Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleanups after meth labs may leave hazards; researcher to study possible hidden contamination

Earlier this month we reported on the Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary guidelines for cleaning up former methamphetamine labs and the push for states to inform prospective home owners and tenants if a meth lab had been present. Now a researcher at the Missouri University of Science and Technology has been awarded a grant to study how long contaminants are left at a meth lab site. Dr. Glenn Morrison, an associate professor of environmental engineering, says decontamination methods may not be enough to protect future occupants.

"Most people who live in a former meth house don’t even know it," Morrison says in a Newswise news release. "And some hotel rooms have also been contaminated." The $116,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology will fund Morrison's research, in conjunction with researchers at the University of Texas-Austin, into the interactions between building materials and the chemicals used in methamphetamine labs. He says chemicals like ammonia and methanol commonly used in meth labs can penetrate into paint, wood and vinyl flooring only to surface again over time.

Morrison says children who frequently contact these surfaces are at particular risk, and lingering meth particles could bond with chemicals in the air allowing them to be inhaled months to years after a thorough cleaning. "We want to be comfortable with the cleaning methods," Morrison says. "Are these methods sufficiently protective? How much should people be concerned about living in a former meth house?" (Read more)

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