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The Drug Enforcement Administration says methamphethamine is the most dangerous drug problem affecting many communities across America.
Contamination from the raw products used to manufacture meth can be extremely toxic.
Just breathing the fumes from an active meth lab in your apartment building or a home next door can make you very ill. Sometimes, these fumes can kill.
Recently, a woman in Ohio called 911 to report her child was unresponsive.
"He went to sleep. Now, we can't get him to wake up," the woman said. "He won't breath or nothing. His lips are purple. To me, he looks dead."
The 17-month-old died after fumes from an active meth lab drifted into the room where he was sleeping.
Even months after a meth lab is no longer in operation, the lingering fumes can still do harm. If you are moving into a new apartment or buying a house, you should do some research before signing a lease or agreeing to purchase.
Lisa Corbit is an Environmental Manager in Mecklenburg County, N. C. Law enforcement officers there contact her office when they discover a meth lab in an apartment or home.
She says it is important for renters or buyers to be aware.
"I think anytime you're going to move into a home --you're going to live there an extended period of time -- you want to understand everything you can about that house," Corbitt said.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, meth labs are an epidemic. More than 10,000 were found in the U.S. in a recent year.
Special Agent Todd Duke is with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and he works with the agency's Clandestine Laboratory Response Program.
"You are going to have chemicals like organic solvents, acids, strong bases, water-reactive metals, all used to manufacture methamphetamine," Duke said.
It's the mixing and heating of these ingredients that makes them potentially volatile and poisonous.
Every pound of meth yields up to five pounds of toxic waste that is usually dumped down the drain and ends up in a nearby waterway.
The residual vapors from a meth lab also contaminate everything inside a home including the carpet, walls, appliances and air ventilation system.
If your home has a lingering odor, rusty staining in unusual places, or causes nose and throat irritation, dizziness, or nausea—you may be living in a former meth lab.
Responsible property owners usually hire a professional decontamination company to clean up a meth lab, but not all homes get a thorough cleaning and not all states are required to notify you about their existence.
Do your own research.
First, check the Drug Enforcement Administration's website. They have a national meth lab registry that shows where meth labs have been found, but keep in mind, this is not comprehensive list.
Call the environmental health agency in your area. They should have a record of any residence where a meth lab was discovered and what the homeowner was required to clean up.
Contact your local sheriff or police office to see if they know of any meth labs at the address.
The best thing you can do is go to the neighborhood and speak with neighbors. They usually know if there has been any recent criminal activity and will likely tell you if a meth lab has been in the area.
If you are unsure if a home with a former meth lab was cleaned properly before you moved in, check with your insurance company. There are tests available and your homeowner's policy may cover those expenses.
According to the DEA's website, there were 340 meth clandestine laboratory incidents including labs, Dumpsters, chem/glass/equipment in 2011. There were 10, 287 incidents nationwide.
The NC number for 2010 was 234 and the nationwide number was 11,868.
DEA Factsheet about Meth:
Street Names: Meth, Speed, Ice, Chalk, Crank, Fire, Glass, and Crystal.
Physical Effects: Methamphetamine is a toxic, addictive stimulant. Meth use dilates the pupils and produces temporary hyperactivity, euphoria, a sense of increased energy, and tremors.
Dangers: Methamphetamine use increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and rate of breathing, and it frequently results in violent behavior in users. Methamphetamine is neurotoxic, meaning that it causes damage to the brain. High doses or chronic use have been associated with increased nervousness, irritability, and paranoia. Withdrawal from high doses produces severe depression. Chronic abuse produces a psychosis similar to schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, self absorption, and auditory and visual hallucinations. Violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic, high-dose methamphetamine abusers.
Description: Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally, and its appearance varies depending on how it is used. Typically, it is a white bitter-tasting powder that easily dissolves in beverages. Another common form of the drug is crystal meth, or "ice," named for its appearance (that of clear, large chunky crystals resembling rock candy). Crystal meth is smoked in a manner similar to crack cocaine and about 10 to 15 "hits" can be obtained from a single gram of the substance.
Distribution Methods: Meth is frequently sold through social networks and is rarely sold on the streets.