Jason Dowdell and Michelle Dilorenzo, a Missouri couple, should have known they were buying a contaminated meth lab home, according to the state’s disclosure law, but they didn’t. No one told them that the three bedroom house they bought would endanger their health and the health of the future children that they hoped to share their new home with. They found out two years after living in it.
An article published by the St. Louis Dispatch says that “One out of every five of the country’s more than 100,000 meth labs has been found in Missouri and Illinois, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Police have found remnants of meth-making equipment and toxic byproducts inside homes, apartments and hotels, as well as dumped along roadways, in yards and cars.” The article goes on to say that despite the prevalence of meth labs, many homes remain contaminated, after police box up the chemicals they find on site, despite a decade of national health experts testifying that exposure to residue in the contaminated homes leads to health problems.
Two years after buying their home, Jason Dowdell and Michelle Dilorenzo, felt the devastating impact that happens when some one finds out they have been living in what the government considers a hazardous waste site. During those two years, Michelle suffered headaches that were so bad, they caused her to vomit, a problem she says she never had before she moved in to their contaminated home. She says she also experienced nausea and wheezing after moving in to the home, but doctors could not say, for sure, that the contaminants caused her health problems. Yet, her symptoms over the two years she lived in the house are far from being rare, among meth lab home owners. Despite the lack of “proof” from doctors, Dowdell and Dilorenzo have decided not to allow their younger siblings stay at their home overnight, anymore.
In the summer of 2008, the couple thought they’d plant some perennials in their flower garden, but quickly changed their minds, when they found needles, foils, funnels, and chemical containers, in the garden area. Police told them that the materials they found were remnants from the meth lab that has once operated on what was now, their property.
Michell Lorenzo and Jason Dowdell are now faced with the decisions that face those who find out they bought a former meth lab. They can either get the home cleaned up and make it safe to live in or they can let it fall in to foreclosure and lose everything they have invested in to it. Because Missouri law doesn’t make a meth lab home owner decontaminate the property, before it gets sold, the couple could also opt to sell it, as long as they disclose it to the new buyer. The sale price of the home, however, will be significantly less than they paid for it. Either way, the cost of buying a contaminated home will cost them thousands of dollars.
After finding out about their meth lab home, another home went up for sale on their street. Curious about whether or not that home might be contaminated, Michelle decided to look it up on the DEA website. Sure enough, the house was listed on the DEA’s site. Soon after, the “for sale” sign came down, when a young couple moved in.
The investigative story by the St. Louis Dispatch found that homes are routinely rented and sold to unsuspecting individuals and families, which violates Missouri law. In tests they conducted on five Missouri homes, their reports showed that all 5 of those homes were contaminated. Jason Dowdell’s reaction to the report helped put those test results in perspective – “If five of five homes came back positive, imagine if you tested 100 homes,and then imagine how many times those homes have been sold and resold.”
You’re right Jason, it’s troubling to think about how many of these contaminated homes still exist not only in MO and IL, but all across the country. Every day that goes by, puts another person, another child, another family, another family’s pet, at risk of becoming sick from the chemicals inside of these contaminated homes. Legislators need to take action – yesterday.
For more about this story, please read:
“Are you living in a former meth lab”? by Christine Byers, St. Louis Dispatch, 9/10/08, http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/35F16EA802D11D50862574DF002C83DA?OpenDocument