The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential risk of, and the environmental effect of methamphetamine (meet or MA) laboratories. Also examined will be the effect these laboratories have on vegetation and wildlife. This paper will discuss some signs that might indicate meet production, as well as associated clean-up costs for areas that have been exposed to methamphetamine production. Environmental Effects of Methamphetamine Laboratories Crystal Methamphetamine is a commonly used narcotic in the United States.
In 2005, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 10. 4 lions people over the age of 12 had tried crystal meet (James, 2013). Extremely addictive, the illegal drug causes rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and damage to the small blood vessels in the brain. Over time, users can become violent, paranoid and delusional. Crystal Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “meet or MA,” comes in the forms of odorless powders or crystals. Not only is the drug detrimental to people’s health, but meet labs are environmental hazards.
While the “illicit” production of meet is based with pseudoscience or ephedrine, which are found in over-the-counter medications, other ingredients may involve gizzards materials that are toxic, corrosive, flammable, or explosive. Such materials include anhydrous ammonia, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorous, lithium metal, sodium metal, iodine, and toluene (US Dept. Of Justice, 2003). Upon discovery, the hazardous materials contained at clandestine drug laboratory locations are classified and managed as hazardous wastes. For every pound of meet produced, five to six pounds of toxic waste are left behind (James, 2013).
While the ingredients used to make meet can be toxic by themselves, combining these items increases the levels f toxicity. The waste from the meet-making process is often washed down the sink, put in the trash, poured on the ground or flushed down the toilets, which exposes the surrounding community that uses the water to the hazard. The health effects of the toxic waste vary, depending on which chemicals were used and how long a person has been exposed to them. Cancer, major organ failure, dizziness, nausea and other ailments have been reported after meet lab exposure.
Meet is made in a laboratory-type setting, which involves mixing and heating chemicals. The fumes from the drug are toxic and can effect the people living in the house and surrounding households (Fries, 2007). These compounds, which have adverse health effects as serious as cancer, are released during the meet-making process as gases. When released, these harmful substances affect the groundwater and air of the surrounding community. Children who are unfortunate enough to live in these environments are particularly affected by the fumes.
Further contributing to the threat of meet manufacturing is the use of volatile organic compounds, or Voss. The use of these compounds and other flammable materials in close rigidity to fire, along with improper storage, use, or disposal of such chemicals often leads to clandestine laboratory fires and explosions. When a meet lab explodes, the toxic fumes are released into the environment at an alarming rate. National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System (UNCLES) 2003 data show that there were 529 reported meet laboratory fires or explosions nationwide, a slight decrease from 654 reported fires or explosions in 2002 (ANTA, 2004).
It is estimated there are 10, 000 to 13,000 clandestine meet labs operating today. While each is a potential hazard to the environment in TTS own right, an estimated 10% will result in a fire or explosion. After meet labs are shut down and removed, the residual effects can still be harmful to the surrounding environment. The toxic ingredients used to make meet leave behind residue that is extremely difficult to clean up. In fact, meet labs can completely contaminate a property (Tucker, 2013). The fumes from the drug can permeate walls, floors and other permanent structures.
The glass and equipment made to use meet is also contaminated. Unfortunately, these substances are not typically disposed of properly, and can be present for years. The Effects Meet Labs Have on Wildlife & Vegetation Methamphetamine production uses a toxic cocktail of chemicals. According to the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine, a typical meet lab is a collection of chemical bottles, hoses and pressurized cylinders. These labs are considered environmental hazards because of the volatile chemicals and cooking process used to manufacture this highly toxic drug.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEAD) estimates that more than 68 percent of all meet labs in the United States are located in ordinary homes in rural and residential areas (George, 2013). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that the toxic chemicals used in illicit methamphetamine laboratories may leech into soil and waterways, causing negative impact to vegetation, wildlife and drinking water. The chemical contamination resulting from meet labs includes highly toxic substances such as battery acid, red phosphorus, iodine, ammonia, starter fluid and drain cleaner.
In addition to leeching toxic chemicals into the soil and wastewater, meet labs also produce toxic fumes, which are damaging to both plants and animals. According to an article in “Sierra Magazine,” a publication of the Sierra Club, U. S. Forest Service officials have found large “tree-kill” sites surrounding meet labs built on national forest land (George, 2013). One official reported instances of these toxic fumes killing Ponderosa pines that Were over a hundred years old. Meet labs and surrounding areas are also susceptible to an increased risk of wildfires resulting from lab explosions or chemical reactions, says the USDA.
According to “Sierra Magazine,” of the 1,654 labs seized nationwide in 1998, nearly one in five were found because of fire or explosion. Signs of Meet Lab Activity There are a myriad of dangers, both social and physical, at a meet lab. Because of the illegal, but usually highly profitable, drug activity, firearms and gang members might be present at the site. Chemical contamination and catastrophic events, such as explosions and fires, also are likely to occur at the lab. There are ways of detecting meet labs both from physical indicators and by observing behaviors of those near the suspected lab.
Meet production involves cooking chemicals and medicines to produce the drug. The byproduct of the cooking process creates foul odors, which often smell eke rotten eggs, cat urine, ammonia, ether, paint thinner or other solvents. The home might smell from the outside and the odors inside will be particularly strong in an active lab. Odors will likely linger in former labs as well. Meet producers use many materials to cook the drugs, and the garbage coming from the suspected house often can indicate a meet lab’s presence. People who suspect a meet lab is nearby should keep an eye out for a large quantity of specific items.
These include the equipment needed to cook the meet: flasks, rubber tubing, funnels, clamps, fastbacks, rubber or latex loves and camp stove fuel (Harkin, 2013). Also, look for packaging of ingredients used in meet production: paint thinner, cold or allergy medications, alcohol, acetone, antifreeze, used lithium batteries and rock salt. Evidence Of a meet lab also can be deduced from common household items that appear in garbage with signs of unusual use. For example, coffee filters stained red or holding a powdery substance often point to meet lab use, as do soda bottles that have tubing coming from them (Phalange, 2013).
All of this garbage might be bagged and placed for pickup each week, but items threw about the property also can point to a meet lab. Some cookers also modify the home’s ventilation because of the odors created. If there are an unusually high number of fans or blowers in windows, or if the windows are open regularly even in cold weather, this can indicate a meet lab’s presence. The byproducts of meet are deadly, and the chemicals that go into making it are caustic. Some cookers will dispose of the byproducts in the yard, and this kills off all vegetation in the area and creates black patches in the yard (Phalange, 2013).
The physical symptoms of having a meet lab close by are well documented. Not only is the risk of dying from an explosion or fire more prevalent with so many caustic chemicals in close proximity, regularly inhaling the range of chemicals needed to make meet can produce symptoms like migraines, kidney problems, burning eyes, a ticklish throat, respiratory ailments and even cancer, after prolonged exposure (Harking, 2013). A New York Times article in 2009 points the finger at a home’s former meet producers as the reason why the current inhabitants were getting sick.
Cleaning Former Meet Lab Property The incidence of clandestine drug laboratories has grown dramatically in the sat 10 years. For example, in Fiscal Year 1992, the Idea’s National Clandestine Laboratory Cleanup Program funded approximately 400 removal actions, and by fiscal year 2001 , the DEAD Program funded funded more than 6,400 removal actions (US Dept. Of Justice, 2003). Health experts know very little about the long-term effects of exposure to contaminants left at a former meet lab. The chemicals used can leave a residue in the wallboard’s, floors, draperies and furniture.
The actual drug itself may remain on the surfaces and may be absorbed through the skin. In some States, such as North Carolina, the abuse and distribution of methamphetamine is a serious problem. Because of the drug’s increased popularity, “meet lab” cleanup costs have significantly increased statewide. According to both the state Governor’s Crime Commission and the National Drug Information Center, each meet lab cleanup in the state costs at least $10,000, which directly affects the availability of other essential public services (Monica, 2013).
The equipment is so high-tech, and the training so thorough, that local law enforcement authorities are usually unable to clean up meet labs. For public feet, only highly trained personnel are authorized to clean up such environmental hazards. Toxic chemicals used to produce methamphetamine often are discarded in rivers, fields, and forests, causing environmental damage, resulting in high cleanup costs. U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s annual cost for cleanup Of clandestine laboratories (almost entirely meet labs) within the United States has increased steadily from FYI 995 ($2 million), to PAYOFF ($12. Million), to FYI 2002 ($23. 8 million) (ANTA, 2004). Moreover, the Los Angels County Regional Criminal Information Clearinghouse, a impotent of the Los Angels WIDTH, reports that in 2002 methamphetamine laboratory cleanup costs in the combined Central Valley and Los Angels WIDTH areas alone reached $3,909,809. Statewide, California spent $4,974,517 to remedial methamphetamine laboratories and dumpiest in 2002 (ANTA, 2004). The number of meet lab incidents and arrests made in 2010, as reported by the Drug Enforcement Agency, was 10,247 down from 18,091 in 2004.
To prevent any public health concerns at an apartment that has previously been used as a meet lab, dwelling testing by an industrial cleanup company should e performed to ensure no harmful chemicals are left behind to make new residents sick. Methamphetamine abuse is increasing in epidemic proportions, both nationally and globally. Availability of meet has markedly increased in the United States due to recent technological improvements in both mass production and clandestine synthesis, leading to significant public health, legal, and environmental problems.
The use of phosphorous-based solvents has led to the pollution Of Water supplies, agricultural land, and even housing. The environmental impact of meet costs most states several million Lars annually for resource allocation and cleans up. Children found at in- home meet labs during drug seizures in California, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington were found to have toxic levels of precursors and byproducts in their bloodstreams, necessitating treatment or hospitalizing.
The number of pediatric deaths and ERE visits for significant burns suffered in in-home meet labs has increased (Meredith, 2005), as has the number of pediatric visits for inadvertent MA poisoning. The use of lead acetate as an occasional reagent in meet synthesis has led to an increase in lead poisoning. Methamphetamine manufacturing is an environmental hazard that needs to be addressed and corrected…