A meth lab is a clandestine drug lab that is a collection of materials and ingredients used to make crystal meth and is made mostly from common household ingredients. These ingredients are mixed and cooked together to make meth and the harmful chemical mixtures can remain on household surfaces for months or years later. There may be health effects in people exposed to chemicals to make meth before, during and after the process. Therefore, each lab is a potential hazardous waste site, requiring evaluation, and possibly cleanup, by hazardous waste professionals.
Meth labs have been discovered in hotel and motel rooms, restaurants, barns, private homes and apartments, storage facilities, fields, vacant buildings and (moving or stationary) vehicles. A minimum of 5 to 7 pounds of chemical waste are produced for each pound manufactured.
Health effects caused by exposure to meth lab chemicals depend on:
- the lab process and chemicals used
- the amount of chemical and length of exposure
- the age and health of the person exposed.
Chemicals may enter the body by being breathed, eaten, or absorbed through the skin. An acute exposure is one that occurs over a relatively short period of time.
Acute exposure to meth lab chemicals can cause:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- lack of coordination
- chemical irritation
- burns to skin, eyes, nose and mouth
Death could result when exposure is to a particularly toxic chemical or the person exposed is particularly vulnerable. Acute exposures can occur in non-drug users during or immediately after making meth.
Less severe exposures can result in symptoms such as:
- fatigue or lethargy
Signs of a Meth Lab
- Strong odor of solvents.
- Residences with windows blacked out.
- Iodine or chemical stained bathroom or kitchen fixtures.
- Travel trailer or RV parked on the property.
- Increased activity, especially at night.
- Excessive trash.
General questions, concerns about health effects of meth: Washington State Department of Health, 1-888-586-9427
Meth Lab Supplies
The most common chemicals used to start the meth making process are over-the-counter cold and asthma medications. Typical brands include Sudafed, Revive, and Mini-thins, which contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine as decongestants or stimulants.
- Plastic Tubing
- Mason Jars
- Propane tanks
- Camp stove fuel
- Empty pill bottles
- Ephedrine or pseudo ephedrine tablets
- Empty cans of toluene, alcohol, or paint thinner
- Starter fluid
- Glass Containers
- Coffee filters with red stains
- Rock salt, iodine
- Lithium batteries
- Hydrogen peroxide