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Lab, Sweet Lab

meth homeIt turns out there’s a real estate crisis hitting the United States. No, not the housing bubble or the balloon mortgage . . . but the redistribution of homes that were once used as meth labs. Yes, you read that right: meth labs.

Picture this: you finally find a house that’s affordable, in a neighborhood that meets your hopes and expectations. The loan goes through, the paperwork gets signed, and you and your family move into a little slice of the American dream. Soon, however, you realize that there are odors that shouldn’t be present, health problems that never affected you before, and a frequent level of discomfort within your cozy abode.

So what’s up? Well, you just might be putting wall-to-wall carpeting in one of the over 10,000 home meth labs that were seized across the United States just last year.

These methamphetamine labs used to create crystal meth, an ever-popular drug of choice for a growing group of people across the country, have been forced into homes since 2006. The federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act was created, trying to regulate the sale of any products that could be used in the production of the incredibly dangerous drug . . . essentially why your OTC allergy medicine is now locked away within the pharmacy. This effort, however, forced drug-makers into the shadows of inexpensive houses; turning the white picket fence into a super-lab for speed.

What’s worse, these houses are now being re-sold. And while there are new laws that are regulating the amount of cleaning and disclosure that goes into the real estate process, there are houses slipping through the cracks.

The health consequences can be nothing short of catastrophic. Headache, dizziness, burns to the skin and eyes, nausea and fatigue are all just part of the list of complications you could expect. While long-term effects haven’t been conclusively studied yet, chronic exposure is expected to lead to brain damage, organ failure, birth defects, reproductive problems and even cancer.

And since the DEA estimates that one pound of meth can produce about five pounds of toxic waste, we’re talking about a problem that can escalate rapidly.

But what exactly can be done about such a tricky issue that can be so elusive if cleaned up properly? What happens when bleach and a vacuum cleaner leave the home looking great, while a silent killer lurks in every faucet and around every corner? The only thing you can do now is to be vigilant.

One red flag would be a house that is dramatically less expensive than any of its neighbors without a clear reason why. In that case, it would be wise to check into the public records and talk to local police about any incidents within its recent history. You can also talk to those who live in the neighborhood. Those who’ve had to live with the house’s history can often be the ones that know the “dirt.”

Most importantly, at the first sign of any new health problems, talk to a doctor. It could be new allergies or one of a million other reasons; but it’s always wise to know exactly what about the new situation is affecting your body.

Because not all crystal sparkles in your new home.

Cited Sources

"DEA, Methamphetamine Lab Incidents." DEA, Maps of Methamphetamine Lab Incidents. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2012. <http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/map_lab_seizures.html>.

"COMBAT METHAMPHETAMINE EPIDEMIC ACT 2005." COMBAT METHAMPHETAMINE EPIDEMIC ACT 2005. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2012. <http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/meth/index.html>.

"Methamphetamine Laboratories." Fact Sheet. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2012. <http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/meth-labs.htm>.


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