Concerns about methamphetamine contamination of residential properties have recently been highlighted in both the international and Australian media.1-3 These concerns relate to the contamination of properties from both the manufacturing and consumption of methamphetamines. However, information regarding what kind of remediation (if any) is appropriate in these contexts is confusing and unclear.
In this bulletin, we take a look at the evidence, providing an outline of the key issues relating to methamphetamine contamination of housing, including:
- What is methamphetamine?
- Impact of residue from methamphetamine – recreational use versus manufacture
- Impact of residue arising from methamphetamine manufacture
- Testing methods
- Levels posing a health risk
- Guidelines for safe levels of methamphetamine
- Remediation of previous clandestine labs
- Cleaning companies offering remediation
- Stigma associated with previous use
- What should be done if manufacture is suspected?
- Further drug information.
- Remediation of properties where methamphetamine has only been used recreationally is not required, as the research does not demonstrate a health risk.
- Properties, where methamphetamine has been manufactured, pose a health risk to people living in those properties, with the highest health risk amongst children.
- Where methamphetamine has been manufactured and following testing for residue, remediation may be required depending on the test findings.
- There is considerable debate about the level of residue warranting remediation in properties where methamphetamine manufacture has occurred.
- Australian guidelines recommend remediation where levels are 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres of the remediated surface. However, a recent review in New Zealand suggests this low ‘safe level’ has previously resulted in unnecessary remediation.
- Unnecessary remediation has associated costs and can increase stigma amongst people living in houses where methamphetamine use has occurred.
What is methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in Australia and around the world. Stimulants speed up the messages travelling between the body and the brain4, giving a person common effects such as confidence, energy, reduced appetite and increased heart rate.4-6
Illegally produced methamphetamines have street names such as ‘speed’ and ‘ice’. The key difference between speed and ice is the purity: ice is generally in the form of crystals or crystalline powder and has a higher purity than speed, meaning the effects of ice are much stronger. Due to the way in which illegal drugs are produced, it is highly likely that methamphetamines also contain fillers such as binding agents, caffeine and sugar.4
The form of methamphetamine that is most commonly used in Australia is crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’), though this use has been declining since 2013.7