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Dangers of a meth lab, present or past

Whether past or present, the toxins left behind by a meth lab can cause negative health effects.

August 15, 2011|by Linda Russell

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- We've seen two meth lab fires in the Springfield area in just the last couple weeks.  Of course, they raise concern for neighbors, and it's more than just the fire danger, or the criminal activity.  Whether past or present, the toxins left behind by a meth lab can cause negative health effects.

Springfield firefighters were called to a house fire on west Webster Sunday night, only to find a meth lab.  Brookline Fire found a similar situation near Sunshine and West Bypass a couple weeks ago.

"If this place would have blew up, everybody would have been gone," said neighbor William Dunn.

Thankfully, there were no injuries in either fire.  But Springfield firefighters take some extra precaution when dealing with a meth lab fire, because of the explosion hazard.  Not to mention the smoke is toxic.

"A lot of times, they use household chemicals, so there's not much more hazard with a meth house fire then there is with a regular household fire, unless it's a massive scale," says Chris Schaefer with Sunbelt Environmental Services.

While it's easy enough to get away from the smoke, it's harder to tell when you're being exposed to meth fumes or residue.  "My girlfriend says the last few days she smelled something kind of weird," said Dunn.

The smell can be one indicator, or of course, finding a working lab.  But many times it's a big question.
"They have us come out and do some air sampling sometimes and wall sampling," Schaefer says. 

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More than half the time, he says they find the suspected residue, which means expensive cleanup.  "The drywall, the carpets, the couches, anything that has absorbent properties, most likely has meth residue or other chemical residue in it," Schaefer says.

If the cleanup isn't done, it can mean headaches, dizziness, respiratory problems or more.  "The secondhand side effects are still kind of unknown, but you can see what happens to people who use it for a long time," Schaefer says.

Professional testing to see if a home contains meth residue can cost in the range of one-thousand dollars.  You can purchase do-it-yourself tests online, but Schaefer says they can sometimes give a false positive. 

Landlords and sellers are required by law to disclose if a home contained a meth lab.  Here's a link to Springfield Police Department's map of meth busts.

Learn more about how to recognize a meth lab at the Greene County Sheriff's website.

In 2010, there were 79 meth lab busts in Greene County, and nearly 2,000 across the state of Missouri.

Missouri does not have any legal requirements for meth lab cleanup, only recommendations from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

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