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by Alliance Environmental · January 16, 2012

CSI Azusa Part 3: Meth Labs

Meth labs are the most common drug labs found in the US.  They can be in homes, apartments, hotel rooms—even cars!  When a meth lab is discovered, after the authorities leave, there is a big clean up job to be done and you probably don’t want to do this job yourself.

Although this type of crime scene is not gross like those that involve violent death or decomposition can certainly be, these scenes are more dangerous to the people cleaning them and to the people who want to live in the property afterwards.  Meth labs use many toxic chemicals in the process of manufacturing:  ammonia, acetone, benzene, iodine, toluene, hydrochloric acidbenzene,  and trichloroethane, as well as phosphorous, solvents and metals.  Exposure to these chemicals during manufacture, during cleanup and to the residue of the cooking process after a lab is closed can cause health problems: including kidney and lung damange, birth defects and blindness.  The vapors from volantile organic compounds (VOCs) from these chemicals can cause:

* Irritation of the nose and throat
* Dizziness
* Nausea and vomiting
* Headaches
* Breathing problems
* Cancer

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Because of these dangers, the professionals who clean up meth labs wear non-porous suits, filtered masks, gloves and boots during the entire project.  These crews have a difficult job that involves long hours in environmental suits, sometimes in very hot temperatures, working with hazardous substances and sometimes with very distressed homeowners.  It is important that they are strong and healthy, not squeamish and offer a sympathetic ear, while being able to distance themselves emotionally from the situation.  These crews are carefully selected and well-trained to make sure that they are the right type of person for the job.

Although the authorities will remove the containers of chemicals and equipment from the scene, cleanup crews must deal with the chemical residue that imbues any porous surface including:

* Carpeting
* Drapes
* Clothing
* Walls
* Counters
* Floors
* Ceilings

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The process of cleaning up a meth lab scene involves:

1.  Airing out the property—The scene should be fully ventilated for 3 to 5 days even before the cleaning crew arrives and during all cleaning procedures.

2.  Removal and disposal of contaminants—Chemicals and all absorbent materials including carpeting and draperies need to be removed from the scene and disposed of properly.  Some scenes also need to have counters and all drywall removed, right down to the studs.  Unfortunately, severely contaminated sites sometimes need to be completely demolished.

3.  Ventilation systems—Ducts and vents also collect residue from the meth cooking process and will continue to disperse contaminants into the property if they are not fully decontaminated.

4.  Plumbing—Often the dangerous chemicals used in meth manufacturing have been poured down drains, sometimes into septic systems.  They can collect in pipes and drainage areas.  A plumber should be called to take care of these issues and the health department if you suspect your septic tank or yard is contaminated.

Alliance Environmental Group offers a full range of services for the management of bio, toxic and hazardous materials, including:

* Site remediation
* Obtaining toxic, bio and hazardous storage or consolidation
* Assistance with required profile sheets and paperwork
* Strict adherence to abatement protocols, standards and procedures.
* Disposal of all Bio-Hazardous waste a federally licensed waste company

Along with cleaning up meth labs, Alliance Environmental Group provides trauma site decontamination which includes disinfecting, odor neutralization and total removal of biological infectious waste, blood or body fluids for residential, vehicle, commercial and industrial environments.

A meth lab is a serious crime scene with serious challenges.  You could be hurt or your health damaged by dealing with the chemicals, equipment, air pollution and residue left by meth manufacturing.  If your property needs to be decontaminated because it used to be a meth lab, please call in a professional cleaning crew to help.  Meth labs already wreack enough havoc while they are in production—don’t let them cause you any more trouble!

On this day when we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I would like to close with my favorite quote:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Alliance Environmental Group wishes you light and love.

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for Alliance Environmental Group and AirTek Indoor Air Solutions.  She welcomes your comments!  For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!  For updates on indoor air challenges, Like us at AirTek on Facebook!

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