Frequently Asked Questions

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, or more correctly Methylamphetamine, is commonly referred to as “Meth” or "P" in New Zealand, or "Ice" in Australia. It is a powerful, highly toxic, addictive drug that is illegally manufactured, or “cooked”, in makeshift, clandestine Meth laboratories (P Clan Labs).

Meth can be found in the form of pills, capsules, powder, crystals or chunks. It is most commonly sold in crystal form, hence the name Crystal Meth. It can be smoked, snorted, injected or eaten but is most commonly heated over a flame in a glass container and the vapours inhaled.

Methamphetamine is a class A drug, classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975  and therefore attracts severe penalties for distribution (dealing) and manufacture (cooking). Manufacturing, importing, dealing and possession for supply can lead to a life sentence.

Meth labs have dramatically increased in recent years because Meth recipes are more readily available. Meth is relatively easy and cheap to make from materials that were commonly bought over the counter and are now imported illegally. The resulting “high” from Meth lasts about 2 to 14 hours (versus about 15 minutes for a cocaine high). Meth is also sometimes called crank, speed, or crystal.

How Do I Recognise a Meth Lab?

Meth Labs can be set up anywhere; homes, baches or cribs, campgrounds, rest areas, motel rooms, cars, garages, storage sheds and vacant buildings.

A typical Meth Lab includes a collection of chemical bottles, glassware, hoses, and pressurised cylinders. The cylinders can take many forms, including modified propane tanks, fire extinguishers, scuba tanks and soda dispensers.The tanks usually contain anhydrous ammonia or hydrochloric acid – both highly poisonous and corrosive.

The most common chemicals used to start the Meth-making process are cold and asthma medications that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine as decongestants or stimulants.
Other common chemicals and equipment found at Meth Labs include:

  • Red phosphorous
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Iodine
  • Starter fluid (ethyl ether)
  • Glass containers (cookware such as Pyrex or Corning ware)
  • Acetone, toluene, alcohol or paint thinner
  • Plastic or rubber tubing
  • Camp stove fuel
  • Funnels
  • Anhydrous ammonia (in propane tanks or coolers)
  • Propane tanks (with corroded, bent or tampered valves)
  • Drain cleaner
  • Coffee filters (with red stains or ephedrine residues)
  • Lithium batteries
  • Camp stoves or hot plates
  • Sulfuric acid, muriatic acid, phosphoric acid
  • Kitty litter

YOU NOTICE ANY OF THESE INDICATORS LEAVE THE PREMISES AND CONTACT POLICE IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT TRY TO TO CLEAN UP OR DECONTAMINATE WITHOUT TAKING THE PROPER HEALTH PRECAUTIONS.

Can I See Evidence of Meth?

While you may be able to see clear evidence of a Meth Lab, in the form of stains on walls and floors and extra extractor fans, you are very unlikely to see any evidence of Meth abuse.
Rather, the smoke or vapour released from Meth use will form invisible residues on all the surfaces nearby and gradually soak into them over time. Over a period of weeks of regular “use” in a house, the surfaces will build up significant levels of meth contamination, Over months and years of meth abuse, the sub-surface linings, framing and insulation can all become contaminated through tiny air gaps in all buildings and yet you will not be able to see any of this contamination. Regular property inspections will not detect the use of Meth in a rental property; only testing will reveal it.

What is the Difference Between Testing Types?

Laboratory-Based Meth Testing:
All of our Meth Test Samples get sent to an independent IANZ accredited laboratory for analysis via Liquid-Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LCMS). This is a powerful technique with very high sensitivity levels, allowing detection of methamphetamine to 0.02 micrograms (µg)/100cm². The analysis is very accurate, there are no false positives or false negatives and the Meth testing is done independently of the people who collect the samples. Lab based testing gives a quantitative result, which allows a remediation company to confidently make recommendations for Meth Decontamination.

In Field/ Presumptive / Self Testing:
These kits often look like pregnancy tests and a wide range of Meth test kits are available from different manufacturers. They provide instant results, but have a low sensitivity when compared to lab based Meth testing. Meth can be missed, even though it is present. The testing is done by the same people who take the samples and inexperience can cause problems in interpreting the results. We have trained and qualified in the use of these Meth testing devices and we have elected not to use them, despite that investment, because we lack faith in their accuracy.

Presumptive testing is not evidential and should not  be used for real estate property transactions.

What New Zealand Legislation Is Applicable to Methamphetamine Contamination?

Just before Christmas 2016, Standards New Zealand announced their proposal for what will become NZS 8510, which will effectively supersede the current Ministry of Health (MoH) Guidelines for Meth testing. They include a approach, as per the ESR report commissioned by the (MoH), and a (largely) single level approach based on a 1.5 µg/100cm² across the board.  

 

Standard New Zealand release NZS 8510:2017 (testing and decontamination of methamphetamine -contaminated properties . 

The Tenancy Tribunal ruled that renting out contaminated premises is a breach of a landlord’s obligation to provide premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness. This obligation is set out in Section 45(1)(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA).

Real Estate Agents may be interested in the REINZ best practice guide surrounding P-Labs and Methamphetamine HERE

What Are the General Health Risks & Symptoms Associated With Meth Labs

Methamphetamine or P and its associated chemicals can cause long-term health effects including cancer, damage to the central nervous system, liver, or kidneys, birth defects, and miscarriages.

It can also cause memory loss, heart problems, aggression and violence. Meth causes health problems not just for the users, but also for others who are unintentionally exposed to the Meth or associated chemicals and byproducts.

People who enter a Meth Lab before it has been properly cleaned and ventilated may experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, lack of coordination, burns and even death. Risk of injury or toxicity from chemical exposure varies, depending on the toxic properties of the chemicals or byproducts, their quantity and form, concentration, duration of exposure, and route of exposure.

Possible routes of exposure to meth lab chemicals include:

  1. Inhalation
  2. Absorption through skin
  3. Ingestion (swallowing)
  4. Injection.

Acute (short-term) exposures to high concentrations of some meth lab chemicals, such as those law enforcement officers face when they first enter a lab, can cause severe health problems including lung damage and burns to different parts of the body. Chronic (long-term) exposures to low concentrations of meth lab chemicals can also cause health problems, such as cancer, and damage to the central nervous system, liver, or kidneys.

Health effects caused by use of meth include symptoms of euphoria, increased alertness, paranoia, decreased appetite and increased physical activity. Other central nervous system effects include irritability, extreme nervousness, insomnia, confusion, tremors, anxiety, aggression, incessant talking, hyperthermia, and convulsions. Long-term effects caused by meth use include kidney and lung disorders, brain damage, liver damage, blood clots, chronic depression, hallucinations, violent and aggressive behavior, malnutrition, disturbed personality development, deficient immune system, and psychosis.

Can’t I just Clean the Meth Residues Away?

Sorry, it’s just not that easy to wash Meth away. In fact, when some of the, so-called, Meth-Heads move out they try to clean the house, themselves. They know landlords or prospective home buyers are likely to test for Meth. They wash down the walls with strong household cleaners like bleach and ammonia based detergents. This temporarily masks the problem by reducing surface Meth contamination but does nothing to solve the deep-seated problem. It might fool “presumptive” testing devices but not lab-based Meth testing procedures. Only specialised chemical washing and spraying programmes can draw out, neutralise and clean away Meth residues effectively and even then they will not clean up P Labs by themselves. Further work removing linings is usually necessary if it is proven the contamination is associated with a Meth Lab.

Do All Meth Houses Have To Be Demolished?

No, not at all! Most Meth houses that test above the Ministry of Health guidelines for methamphetamine have low to moderate contamination levels and can be decontaminated quite quickly and easily.
Although it is labour intensive and hazardous work, sometimes requiring large and repeated applications of specialised chemicals to draw out Meth and then neutralise it, the work can be done without tearing your house apart, in most cases. Sometimes internal wall linings, ceilings and floor coverings may be removed from some areas of moderate or higher meth contamination. Some electrical fittings and appliances, which attract meth, like stoves, range-hoods, light switches and fittings and power points may also need to be removed, in moderate cases. Demolition is usually reserved for only the worst cases where Meth Labs have been well established.

Does EnviroCheck Tidy Up Afterwards?

Unfortunately, no, we do not put back anything that we remove in order to decontaminate meth houses. We “clean” away meth residues but we do not provide a “cleaning service” in the usual sense of the term. The nature of our workusually means that you will need to employ specialised tradespeople to replace any carpets and curtains, redecorate and replace electrical appliances, fixtures and fittings we may need to remove. Many of our clients also contract commercial cleaners to remove any chemical residues we may leave behind and to tidy up. Although we believe that the meth-cleaning solutions we use are non-toxic, they could potentially cause minor irritation to those who are sensitive to them, as any cleaning products can. We advise all of our clients to assess their property after we leave to determine, for themselves, what further work still needs to be done to return their home to its former glory.

What If My Neighbour Made P?

Depending on the quality of the precursors and methods used by the cook, along with the proximity of the structures involved, anecdotal evidence suggests the meth contamination does drift to neighbouring properties. Given the low cost meth testing now available, set your mind at ease and get a meth test!

How Can I Tell If a Meth Lab is Present Near My House?

Some warning signs of a Meth Lab may include:

  • Windows blacked out, with blankets, plastic or tin foil. 
  • Strong or unusual odours. 
  • Unusual security systems or devices. 
  • Increased activity, especially at night.
  • Unusual structures.
  • Excessive rubbish.
  • Discoloured structures, pavement or soil.
  • Tenants who pay in cash.
Can I Smell Meth?

Meth use will often not leave behind a discernible odour. You are more likely to experience a tingling sensation in your mouth or a sudden headache or skin, eye, nose or throat irritation. Sometimes, you may be able to smell a chemical or urine smell if meth manufacturing has occurred. These are the other chemicals associated with manufacturing P.

Aren’t P-Labs Found in Low Socio-Economic Areas?

Meth contamination can be found anywhere. Meth means big money and P Labs have been found in multi-million dollar homes and luxury apartments. Meth Labs are also found anywhere that provides privacy, like well-fenced or walled houses and isolated rural properties.

What Should I Do If I Suspect the Presence of a Meth Lab?

DO NOT ENTER a site that you think may be used for cooking P. Call the police immediately. 

Meth Labs present extreme dangers from fire, explosions and exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Breathing chemical fumes or handling unknown substances can cause injury and even death. Meth Labs are considered hazardous waste sites and should only be entered by trained and properly equipped professionals.

Never handle materials you suspect were used for making meth, such as contaminated glassware or needles.

Skin contact can result in burns or chemical absorption into the skin. Handling items can also cause some of the chemicals to ignite or explode on contact with water or air.

What Should I Do If Someone Needs Help with Meth Addiction?
Meth Help is for any New Zealander concerned about their own or someone else's use of meth and how it is impacting their lives.
What About Painting Over Meth?

It has certainly been done before. Fresh paint and wallpaper will partially cover up the meth, temporarily, but even quite low-level meth contamination will start to leach into the new surfaces quite quickly and eventually the new surface will be as bad as the subsurface. All you will achieve is a temporarily lower meth test reading than before. You may fool a “presumptive” meth testing device, completely, but not a proper laboratory test.

The fresh paint will then complicate the testing process by requiring further sub-surface testing. Worse still hours of wasted time and chemicals can be used on the wrong type of decontamination plan, which will be discovered when re-testing is done. If Meth levels have not gone down or worse they've gone up, it means Meth has been drawn to the surface again. Ultimately, the real levels of meth contamination will be found and will have to be cleaned up at greater expense than if you had just left well alone. By painting over the Meth you may now have required the linings be removed because the meth is trapped between layers of paint and cannot be properly treated.

Will Just Smoking Meth Cause Any Harm?

Yes, absolutely, smoking crystal-meth, or even meth powder, will contaminate a property. It will take much longer than a Meth Lab to contaminate the house but even one smoke will show up in lab tested samples.
Over time, repeated smoking of Meth will require many thousands of dollars to be spent in extensive testing and meth decontamination. Even smoking outside will still contaminate the house because the vapours still seem to find their way inside and residues will contaminate your clothes, which will cross-contaminate everything they touch inside the home. Please don’t ruin your own home or someone else’s. Sooner or later it will have to be decontaminated, as meth just doesn’t go away or break down naturally over time.

 

Do EnviroCheck Pay Or Accept Referral Fees?

Although it is common practice for meth decontamination companies to pay referral fees to meth testing (sampling) companies, EnviroCheck neither accepts nor pays such fees. We believe this creates a hidden or undisclosed conflict of interest because you don't know whose advice to trust. It's widespread practice does not make it any more acceptable. Any company who recommends us will receive no financial advantage whatsoever and, similarly, any company we recommend will not be paying us to do so. There are no hidden conflicts of interest at EnviroCheck. We do, however, have an open or disclosed conflict of interest because we can sample and decontaminate. Usually we only provide one service per property but this conflict can easily be minimised by our use of independent lab testing (Hill Laboratories) and photographic and video records of our sampling process, if you insist on using our services for both aspects of the job.

Do EnviroCheck Provide Home Test Kits?

Due to previous mis-use of these types of DIY kits, we no longer provide these kits for self testing of meth. When we sample and provide you with results, you can trust that we have used trained personnel and sampled correctly and that the test results are representative of the property tested. We do not "pretend" to collect samples, in order to produce meth free results, nor do we deliberately target areas known to produce elevated readings to get high results.