Meth labs in Australia have hit an all time high, according to a new report by the Australian Crime Commission. According to the Commission’s report , “the number of clandestine laboratories detected nationally has increased by 245% over the last decade from 201 in 2000-01 to 694 in 2009-10″, and 90% of them were producing methamphetamine largely in residential communities (The Illicit Drug Data Report 2009-2010, 112, 115). Residential areas accounted for 71.3 % of Australia’s meth labs, followed by vehicles (9.6%) and its rural areas (8.6%).
Australia, like the U.S., is now in the midst of a rapidly rising meth lab problem that threatens the health and safety of its citizens. Between 2009 and 2010, 694 meth labs were found in Australia, a significant increase over the 150 meth labs that police found in the country in 1999. Nationwide, Australia is now home to more than 4,000 meth labs, according a recent article published by WA Today. Recent news that meth labs have risen sharply is a cause for concern for the nation’s property owners, renters, and its visitors.
Living in a former meth lab home that has not been decontaminated is risky business, considering what scientists know about the chemical structure of the chemicals used to make meth. Those chemicals, which are composed of microscopic particles, are easily inhaled in to the lungs and can also be absorbed through the skin. Those who are in a former meth lab home, without adequate protection for their health, have had their health put in harm’s way. Studies show that infants and young children, who are small in stature and who tend to spend more time on the floor (sitting, lying, playing), are particularly at risk from becoming ill from their exposure to meth lab chemicals, some of which are known carcinogens like Benzene. Even more troubling is the fact that doctors are not likely to associate a child’s allergies, heart problems, cancer, and respiratory problems, including asthma, to a child’s living situation, because parents may not be aware of that their home is filled with toxic meth lab chemicals. In the U.S., many home owners and renters don’t find out about the history of their home until they discuss their health problems with neighbors or talk about oddities they’ve found in their home such as weird stains, odors, strange locations for plumbing or electrical outlets, etc. New health problems can begin soon after living in a former meth lab home, but some health problems may take a decade or more to surface, some experts say. Those who had existing health problems, before they move in to a contaminated home, often find those health issues worsening as a result of their exposure to the meth lab chemicals that permeate every surface in their home.
Although, children are more vulnerable to the health issues caused by chronic exposure to meth lab chemicals, adults are not immune to the health problems that can be caused by meth lab toxins. Professionals in the U.S. who have been called in to evaluate a meth lab home do not walk in to them unprepared: Hazmat suits that cover all of their skin and protect their respiratory systems are standard protocol in the U.S.. The protective gear, now worn in the U.S., is a direct result of health problems that have been suffered by its law enforcement officers, who were busting meth labs without the protection of those suits in years past. Many of those officers have become seriously ill, some terminally ill, decades after they’d been exposed to meth lab chemicals.
Many Australians are unaware of the health dangers that meth labs have brought to their communities and that has Peter Guerrin, a former police officer in Australia, who now owns a cleanup company, deeply concerned.
“The clandestine lab police drug squad will go in. They do their raid. They take away all their bits and pieces and say ‘yep, all done’… What is left behind is equally as toxic and invariably they’re rental premises. Sooner or later that premises is going to be re-rented, there’s going to be a six-month old baby crawling around on the carpet, go horribly green and die. If there’s enough evidence worldwide and enough counties in the US that actually list a premises that had a lab in it on the title for 99 years, that this premises was a clandestine lab and cannot be re-used or re-opened until it has been cleared, you’ve got to think perhaps there might be something in this.” Guerrin told an ABC news reporter.
Guerrin advised one realtor who visited a former meth lab property to have her blood tested so she would have a record of her exposure in the event that she becomes ill – ten years in the future.
John Lawler, ACC’s Chief Executive Officer, also warned Australians about the chemical contamination that is being caused by meth lab chemicals and their waste products. During an interview with WA News, he said, “The residue of drug manufacturing can pose risks for many years including damage to the environment through soil and water contamination as well as disposal of toxic waste in public spaces.”