Clandestine Meth Labs


                Do you live near a methamphetamine lab?  Chances are that you could.  What is a methamphetamine lab?  A methamphetamine lab is sometimes referred to as a clandestine laboratory by law enforcement officials.  The more common street name is, 'mom and pop' labs.

The primary purpose of these labs is to manufacture illegal controlled substances such as methamphetamine.  These labs pose a variety of hazards to the environment and most importantly to people.

What Hazards Are Associated with Meth Labs?


                The possibility for fires and explosions is extremely high.  Meth cooks are often untrained and very reckless when making crank.  This often leads to explosions and fires that kill families and the people involved.  Law enforcement officials or firemen who respond may also be injured or killed by fires due to explosions of meth labs.

            People who live close to these labs also encounter the risk of being exposed to hazardous chemicals and fumes.  Meth labs contain a variety of solvents, precursors and hazardous agents, which are often in unmarked containers.  The chemicals found at these sites are very potent and can enter the central nervous system (CNS).  Once the chemicals have entered the CNS, they may cause neural damage and affect the liver and kidneys.

            Five or six pounds of toxic waste are produced for each pound of crank that is manufactured.  Leftover chemicals and by-products are often poured down drains in plumbing, storm drains, or even directly onto the ground.  These toxic substances can remain in the soil and groundwater for years.  The contaminated soil that is usually incinerated dramatically increases the cost of cleanup.  The cost of cleaning up a lab site can range from $5000 to as much as $150,000.  These clandestine labs are considered hazardous waste sites and should only be entered by trained and properly equipped professionals.

Where Can these Labs Be Found?


Most labs are found in rural cities and suburban residences.  They find their way to barns, garages, and other out buildings.  Some other places include back rooms of business, apartments, hotel and motel rooms, storage facilities, vacant buildings and sometimes vehicles.

            These labs are characteristically small and make use of common household appliances, glassware and chemicals that are readily available in most stores.  Some of the chemicals used are:  starting fluid, Drano, alcohol and paint thinner.  Other ingredients may include over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudophedrine, red phosphorus, hydrochloric acid, batter acid and antifreeze.

            Methamphetamine starts with an inactive compound known as a precursor substance.  This is usually ephedrine or pseudophedrine.  A precursor substance is a compound that is inactive in nature and when combined with another chemical it produces a new drug.  In the case of methamphetamine, the precursor is ephedrine or pseudophedrine and the chemicals added to create the new drug consist of Drano, hydrochloric acid and other such chemicals.

What Are Some Things To Look For In A Meth Lab?


Look for unusually strong odors such as ether, ammonia acetone or other chemicals, residences with windows blacked-out, lots of traffic (people coming and going at unusual times), and excessive trash (including large amounts of fuel cans, red chemically stained coffee filters, drain cleaners and duct tape).  Owners of these labs usually bring in large quantities of glass into their homes. and since most drug dealers trade in cash, most renters will pay their landlords in cash only.


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