Deadly methamphetamine chemicals can remain in a home for years, but how do you know if your house is contaminated?
Deadly methamphetamine chemicals can remain in a home for years, but how do you know if your house is contaminated?

Is your house is contaminated by meth?

MOVING into a new dream home can quickly turn into a nightmare putting lives at risk, as one family north of Brisbane recently found out.

It is a public health problem right across the world as residue from methamphetamine (meth) labs in a home could linger in the property for years.

Unsuspecting homebuyers or renters have moved into their dream homes, only to discover meth contamination present, just like Natalie King's family did recently.

Ms King recently moved with her family into a rental property in Morayfield before they were forced to leave after just one week when they began getting sick.

Within a day or two of moving in, they started experiencing headaches, itchy eyes and skin, sore throats and irritability which led to vomiting and skin rashes and some cases.

Methamphetamine drug.
Methamphetamine drug.

The real estate agent organised a meth test done on the house that returned a positive result and the family was told to throw out many of their belongings.

Health risks associated with home contamination of meth can be extremely serious, yet the costs to fully decontaminate a home may put people off getting it tested.

REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said that while meth contamination of residential properties was a serious health risk, there was an extremely low occurrence of people being impacted by residue from meth chemicals, where drug manufacturing had occurred.

"What's extremely important however is if a property has been contaminated that proper cleaning to the appropriate level has been carried out," she said.

Ms Mercorella added that people seeking a rental property should be careful not to make assumptions as to the location of where methamphetamine may or may not be produced.

"Clandestine laboratories have been discovered in a wide variety of locations so to suggest certain areas are more prone to such activities would be a mistake," she said.

Police raided a unit with a small Meth lab inside.
Police raided a unit with a small Meth lab inside.

People should also ensure they get any testing done by a reputable company.

If a test result returns an unusually high level of contamination, get a second opinion.

There are also DIY meth testing kits available and a Brisbane-based company has developed devices able to detect the use of methamphetamine in a home, which then alerts the owner by text message.

For tenanted rental properties, a property manager is required to report to police any illegal activity they witness, such as a meth lab.

However, the situation is less clear for vacant properties.

Ms Mercorella said estate agents were required to disclose any previous contamination of a property to a potential purchaser or future tenant inspecting the property.

A meth lab in a factory. Photo supplied by Biological Health Services
A meth lab in a factory. Photo supplied by Biological Health Services

This includes measures taken to remove the contamination along with supporting documentation.

A Flinders University study released last October found that methamphetamine contamination could remain in a home for years.

"Our results demonstrate that methamphetamine has continued to mobilise after manufacture when the property was under new ownership for a period exceeding five years," researcher Dr Kirstin Ross said.

"This suggests that the methamphetamine is not breaking down or being removed and is constantly transferred from contaminated to non-contaminated objects."

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission estimates that more than 8.3 tonnes of meth is consumed in Australia each year.

Agency data shows nearly 470 labs were busted in 2016-17 and research suggests that 1 in 70 Australians have used meth in the past year.

Originally published as Is your house is contaminated by meth?