'Meth' Production Poses Risks to Many, Including EHS Professionals

The dangers of toxic exposure to clandestine methamphetamine or "meth" laboratories extend far beyond the user and the "cook" who manufactures the drug. They also put industrial hygienists who test meth lab sites for contamination and recommend cleanup procedures as well as first responders, law enforcement personnel and potentially many others in harm's way, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

A mock meth lab will be on display in the expo hall during the 67th annual American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce), from May 15-17 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Several industrial hygienists who are experts on these labs and often help assess contamination and recommend remediation steps will be on hand to conduct short tours and explain the contents of the lab.

The mock meth lab at AIHce 2006 will be set up as a small room with a realistic display of the equipment and some of the ingredients (nonharmful ingredients only) used in these labs to demonstrate the health and safety issues faced by first responders, law enforcement personnel and EHS professionals who deal with illegal drug labs and meth-contaminated properties.

Many Other Occupations Potentially at Risk

AIHA believes that the public should be informed of the dangers posed when occupying or visiting dwellings that previously contained meth labs. Many other occupations are potentially at risk, according to AIHA, including real estate agents, landlords, property managers, prospective renters and home buyers, garbage collectors, utility workers, plumbers and social service agents.

Children living in the vicinity of a meth lab can be at risk; in fact, thousands of clandestine laboratory seizures each year involve children. Visitors or neighbors can be harmed by the poisonous vapors that vent from meth labs or from the toxic "cooking" debris that is sometimes buried outside or flushed into septic systems.

Meth Production Creates Dangerous Waste

Household production of the drug creates chemical dust and vapors that can seep into adjacent spaces, including homes, apartments and hotel rooms. Walls, toys, furniture, plumbing fixtures, septic systems and surrounding soil can be contaminated and may require professional decontamination.

AIHA suggests prospective renters or homebuyers with concerns ask local law enforcement to run a criminal check on the property and request documentation that the property was decontaminated professionally.

AIHA's mock meth lab will be on display during regular expo hours. Detailed conference information and registration is available at http://www.aiha.org/Content/CE/aihce.htm.

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