Methamphetamine ....Frequently Asked Questions
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that is made from common household chemicals. If meth has been cooked or smoked inside a structure, it will saturate walls, floors, ceilings and fittings making it unsafe for occupants.
How does Meth contaminate a home?
Smoking is the most common form of meth use. When meth is smoked, the drug is heated and turned into a vapor. The vapor that is not inhaled by the smoker is then deposited on the walls, floors, furnishings, and duct system leaving a residue of meth. The amount of meth residue depends on the amount and frequency of smoking. Because of the increased trend in smoking meth, homes that were never used to manufacture meth are still testing positive for meth contamination putting families at risk. The larger concern relates to the manufacture of the drug in dwellings. The process of manufacturing methamphetamine can include heavy metals, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, and other toxic chemicals. Some of these will ‘air out’ eventually, but many will persist in the air, on surfaces and inside porous materials. Solid forms of methamphetamine if spilled, can end up worked into carpets, furniture and upholstery.
How many houses are affected by Methamphetamine in New Zealand?
While it's impossible to know how many houses have been contaminated, the Real Estate Institute (REINZ) says it's a "serious issue" in New Zealand. Housing New Zealand's most up-to-date data shows 688 of its properties tested positive for meth between June 1, 2015 and May 27, 2016. This is a 200 per cent increase compared to the previous financial year, when 229 houses tested positive. Housing New Zealand owns about 64,000 properties.
What are the health implications?
There's a big difference between living in a house where someone smoked methamphetamine, and living in a house that was used to manufacture the drug, National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep says. "People living in a laboratory environment risk suffering adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects following the exposure to organic solvents, acids, alkalies and other chemicals. However, people dwelling in a house where previous tenants had smoked methamphetamine, and there is some evidence of low concentrations on surfaces, have minimal risks of toxicity. "The risks would be similar for people who live in a house that had previous dwellers who smoked cigarettes or marijuana. They will have exposure to these drugs but the concentrations will not be sufficiently high enough to cause either psychoactive or toxic effects to people who may have had inadvertent, and brief, dermal contact with these surfaces."
What standards are in place for testing?
In short, there are no standards for methamphetamine testing and clean-up in New Zealand. In 2010, the Ministry of Health released guidelines which are used by councils to assess risk. While they don't explicitly confirm a safe level, they establish a currently acceptable level post-remediation: less than 0.5 micrograms per 100 square metres. Guidelines around the world adopt a range of acceptable levels 0.05-1.5mcgs. These levels shouldn't pose a health risk to most people. The Institute of Environmental Science and Research says it can't comment on testing undertaken by commercial operations for remediation purposes: "Sensitivity and specificity may vary depending on the techniques being employed by different operators." However it says as far as it knows, there are no testing standards commercial operators must meet. A number of overseas jurisdictions have promulgated testing standards ".
However, Standards New Zealand has recently established a committee that will begin looking at introducing standards for commercial operators.
In the meantime - currently under NZMOH recommendations the recommended level in NZ is less than 0.05mcgs
I'm renting a house: who's responsible for testing?
If landlords rent out a property that is contaminated, they are breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, as well as other legislation such as the Building Act and the Health Act. However there is no obligation for landlords to test their property and, while they must decontaminate it before it is re-tenanted under the Residential Tenancies Act, their duty does not extend to disclosing its history to prospective tenants unless asked. If they do test a property during a lease, they are required to tell tenants if levels exceed or are likely to exceed acceptable guidelines.
I'm buying a house: who's responsible for testing?
REINZ chief executive officer Colleen Milne says agents are taught to look for suspicious signs, and suggest testing to owners. Agents should also recommend buyers get independent expert advice. Police and some local authorities have procedures to notify local councils when they identify contaminated properties. If you're selling a house, you're required to tell prospective buyers of any level of methamphetamine present.
How much does it all cost?
The D4D preliminary drug testing kits are affordable at $18 per kit, these will give a preliminary indication if present above the .64ng/mm2 sensitivity which will be a starting point, to decide whether a lab verified and other testing is necessary.
The costs of sorting out contamination vary wildly; low-level contamination may pose no risk to health and not require any action, while high-level contamination can require a property be destroyed. Costs for detailed testing range from $3000-$10,000. Decontamination can range from $2000-$50,000. As well as costing a lot of money, this process can take a long time. With rental properties, this can lead to a loss of income. Most people should expect to spend between $10,000-$50,000, plus the cost of reinstatement.
What should you do if your house is contaminated?
Currently, there are no requirements – subject to that which may be imposed by the terms and conditions of some insurance policies – to tell Police or local council about a positive test result. However, it's recommended you do.
Why do I need to be concerned?
A property contaminated by the manufacture or use of methamphetamine will affect:
Your property’s value
Your bank balance
Your emotional well-being
The chemicals used to produce methamphetamine are highly toxic and can cause serious health problems to anyone exposed. People who are exposed to low level meth contamination often suffer from nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and breathing difficulties. Babies and young children are especially venerable as they often spend more time playing on the floor. As well as that, any contact with meth or the chemicals used in its manufacture, will have an impact on their developing body and brain.
Can I do a simple preliminary test without the expense of lab testing?
Yes, by using the D4D product, a fast, cost-effective preliminary contamination test can be conducted that will give you a result in minutes.
Should a preliminary test show a positive result, we recommend that further testing be undertaken by professionals to retest and confirm that the contamination is in fact meth, and how high the levels are.
Preliminary drug residue detection relies on a colour reaction achieved by a minimum quantity of residue per mm of test paper being present.
Preliminary drug residue detection kits provide the greatest opportunity to achieve a Colour reaction when used over the largest surface area possible but by no means can offer a certain answer as to the presence of drug residue in exact quantities due to the inconsistencies in each persons testing methods and the lack of use of lab equipment. The minimum surface area is a guide only.
How many kits do I need to test a house?
Each D4D PenTest kit can be used to test up to 4 samples.
Samples should be taken from areas where contamination is most likely to remain after a basic clean-up has been carried out
Depending on the size of the house 3 to 4 kits should be sufficient for a 3 or 4 bedroom house.