Meth and Property
Was This Property a Meth Lab?
If you are looking at or interested in a property that you are concerned may have been a meth lab, there are several resources available to help you find out if there was ever a meth lab on the property.
On this page:
Declared vs Undeclared Meth Labs
Property That is Declared a Meth Lab
Property You Suspect Was a Meth Lab
Property Where You Think Meth Use Occurred
Testing Process and Results
What is the "California standard" and what does it mean?
A property used in the manufacture of methamphetamine is “declared” a meth lab by local authorities. Usually police or sheriffs declare the property a meth lab while conducting a search or making an arrest. Sometimes the Community Health Board or one of its subparts will declare a property a meth lab.
When a property has been used in the manufacture of meth, but has not been declared a meth lab by local authorities, it is an “undeclared meth lab.”
The first step is to find out if the property has already been listed as a known meth lab. This means that the property will have been legally declared a meth lab by local authority.
If the property was declared a meth lab by local authority after January 1, 2006, it should be listed on the deed to the property. If this is the case, any remediation (cleanup) measures taken should also be listed on the deed and you will want to make sure to see that the proper remediation steps were taken.
Local Community Health Services Agencies (CHS) maintain lists of properties declared meth labs. If you want to check whether or not a property is on the list, contact the local health department in your area.
MDH has a partial list of properties that were declared meth labs before January 2006. If you have not found the property listed as a meth lab on the deed or through the local health department, but you think it may have been declared a meth lab prior to 2006, you can contact the MDH Meth Lab Program to see if the property was listed in the past.
The Drug Enforcement Administration also maintains a register of clandestine labs across the country. You can check the lists on their website for the property that you are interested in.
If the property has never been legally declared a meth lab, it can be difficult to be completely certain if a property was a former meth lab. One good resource is to discuss the property with local law enforcement to determine how likely it was to have been a meth lab.
- To find your local authority, see: State and Local Government on the Net
Another option if you suspect a lab is to test the property for meth residue. You may test the property yourself or hire a remediation contractor to inspect the property and take samples for methamphetamine testing. See the Testing Process and Results section below for details on how you can test the property. You need the owner's permission to conduct testing.
If a meth lab is suspected, the property owner may decide to have the property remediated.
- It is strongly recommended that the property owner hire a contractor to do the remediation and any pre- or post-remediation sampling.
- If the property owner or renter decides to perform the remediation themselves, the owner or renter should perform the remediation following the steps in the Cleanup Guidance to the best of their ability.
If the only concern is meth use, the health concern about harmful exposures is limited to the methamphetamine itself, and does not include concerns about the other chemicals that can contaminate a residence from a meth lab.
- The homeowner or renter may sample for meth to find out how much meth is present.
- There is minimal health risk to any family member living in a residence when methamphetamine contamination measures at or below the California health-based cleanup standard.
- If meth contamination measures above the California health-based cleanup standard, MDH recommends that the homeowner or renter follow the remediation steps in the Cleanup Guidance as closely as possible to reduce the risk from exposure to meth residue.
You can test for meth in one of two ways: hire a contractor or test yourself.
Professional remediation companies have personnel who are trained in testing procedures and can be hired to do meth testing. Hiring a contractor has several advantages. The contractor’s results will carry more weight in legal proceedings. Also, the contractor can help you understand what the results of the test mean. The disadvantage of hiring a contractor is the cost.
Please contact the companies directly for cost estimates and timeline information: Contractors List
Testing yourself costs less, but the results are less reliable. There are two different types of test kits that you can buy over the internet: a wipe kit and a colorimetric kit.
With both kits you take a wipe sample. To do this, you apply a solvent (a liquid like alcohol) to a test cloth (like a piece of gauze used to clean a wound). Then you wipe the wet test cloth on the surface you are testing.
For the wipe kit, you mail the test cloth to a laboratory for analysis. The lab sends you the result in micrograms per 100 centimeters squared (µg/100cm2). The advantage of this type of kit is that you know what level of meth is present on the tested surface. The disadvantage is that it takes a couple of weeks to get the result back.
For the colorimetric kit, you process the test cloth and get the result from a test stick (like a home pregnancy test stick). The colorimetric kits are pass/fail tests – a positive result means that meth is present above the kit’s sensitivity level. The kits come at several different sensitivity levels: 0.05 µg/100cm2, 0.1 µg/100cm2, 0.5 µg/100cm2, and 1.5 µg/100cm2. The 1.5 µg/100cm2 kit is probably the most useful since that is the California health-based standard for meth residue. The advantage of the colorimetric kit is that you get the results the same day. The disadvantage is that you don’t know the level of meth present on the surface – you only know if it is above or below the test stick’s sensitivity.
What your test results mean:
You are testing meth surface contamination samples for the concentration: the mass of meth found on a surface area.
- The mass is measured in micrograms (µg, one-millionth of a gram).
- The surface area is usually an area 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters (100 centimeters-squared or 100 cm2).
- The California health-based standard for meth residue is 1.5 µ/100cm2. This is used as a standard to determine if meth levels are safe.
- If the measured meth level is below the California standard and the property was not declared a meth lab, cleanup is not necessary – that level of meth has been shown to present minimal health risk to all occupants of a home.
The California health-based standard (California standard) is 1.5 µg/100cm2. This number is based on a study of health effects of meth in children – the population most at risk to harm from meth residue. The meth concentration of 1.5 µg/100cm2 has been determined to present minimal risk to children and therefore to all other groups potentially exposed. After a declared meth lab has been remediated, the contractor must demonstrate that the level of meth present is below this standard in order for the property to be considered properly cleaned. If there has not been a declared meth lab, this standard can be used to determine whether or not there is a health risk to living in a property where the owner is concerned about contamination from meth use.