What is a Meth Lab? - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Methamphetamine and Meth Labs
What is a Meth Lab?

On this page:

Meth Labs and Products
Ways to Recognize a Meth Lab
What to Do if You Find a Meth Lab

Meth Labs and Productsmeth haz mat suits

A meth lab - or clandestine drug lab - is a place where meth is manufactured or "cooked." Materials used in a meth lab are commonly used and readily available. Other drugs may be manufactured or processed alometh debrisng with meth.

 Meth "recipes" can be easily obtained through the internet or by associating with other people who "cook" meth.

These "recipes" can include the following:

  • Over-the-counter medications that include pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in their contents.
  • Combinations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), acids, bases, metals, solvents and salts.
  • Chemical products and substances that are used interchangeably to produce meth in different forms.

Depending on the process and chemicals used, the final product can be tainted and have unwanted or dangerous effects.

Chemical reactions depend on the substances used and cause the process to be hazardous, frequently resulting in chemical fires, explosions, and the release of toxic gases.

Meth cooking produces 5 to 7 pounds of solid and liquid chemical wastes for each pound of meth made. These byproducts are considered hazardous waste, and it can contaminate a building and its contents or the groundwater or soil where they are dumped.

Ways to Recognize a Meth Lab

Labs can exist indoors or outdoors, in houses, apartment buildings, motels, vehicles, wooded areas or fields.

Signs of illegal production or sales of drugs, including meth, are:

  • Frequent visitors at all times of the day or night
  • Occupants appear unemployed, yet make cash purchases or payments
  • Occupants are unfriendly, appear secretive, lie, or display odd or paranoid behavior
  • Covering of windows or other security measures such as signs, fences, cameras
  • Burn pits, stained soil or dead vegetation indicating chemical or waste dumping
  • Strong chemical odors including ammonia or solvent smells at random times

Waste can include:

  • Packaging from pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Empty containers from: antifreeze, white gas, ether, starting fluids, freon, lye or drain openers, paint thinner, acetone, alcohol, rock salt or Epsom salt
  • Compressed gas cylinders or camp stove containers
  • Glass containers or soda bottles with dried chemical deposits remaining
  • Bottles connected with rubber hosing and duct tape
  • Coolers, thermos bottles, or other cold storage containers
  • Masks, coffee filters, or pillow cases stained red or containing a white powdery residue
  • Contaminated cat litter bags with litter

The "Shake and Bake" method of making meth - a newer method - is frequently used in automobiles and other small spaces. The waste from the process often includes common items such as 2-liter soda bottles and is easily discarded along the roadside.

Use of meth does not mean meth was made or "cooked." If you are concerned about the risks associated with meth use, you can find more information on the risks and recommendations in that situation by seeing Property Where You Think Meth Use Occurred.

What to Do if You Find a Meth Lab

Anyone who believes he or she has discovered an illegal drug lab or the site of an abandoned lab should immediately notify local law enforcement (dial 911) and should not enter the area of the suspected lab.

Anyone who happens to enter a lab where meth is in the process of being manufactured should leave immediately– without disturbing the cooking process, chemicals or equipment.

 Local law enforcement who make arrests at a "clandestine lab site" must notify the Minnesota Duty Officer (1-800-422-0798), the local city or county public health agency, and child protection with the location of the site. Depending on the severity of contamination, the type of site and the individuals involved, one or more of the following agencies may need to be involved in investigation, evaluation, sampling or remediation of the site:

  • Local: fire department, bomb squads, hazardous materials (Hazmat) teams, city/county attorney, county agriculture, city/county health and licensing authorities, animal control, household hazardous waste, child protection , or other human service agency
  • State: Minnesota Duty Officer (1-800-422-0798), Highway Patrol, Pollution Control Agency, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Department of Agriculture, Health, Natural Resources or Transportation, or the Attorney General
  • Federal: Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Private: environmental cleanup company, poison control center, hospital or clinic

See our Cleanup Safety page for more information about entering a lab safely.


Updated Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 07:18AM