This article on meth inspection was published on news.com.au on November 14th, 2016 and is available by clicking here
Methamphetamine use is on the rise and contamination in the home is serious
WHEN purchasing a new home, would you take out a building and pest inspection? What about a meth inspection?
Methamphetamine use is on the rise in Australia and the health consequences of contamination in the home can be serious.
According to a study by the Medical Journal of Australia the number of Australians using the illicit stimulant drug has almost tripled over the past five years. The study shows there are 268,000 regular users in Australia, with over half of those classified as dependent on the drug.
A SILENT DANGER
Bryan Goodall, National Sales Manager of Octief, an environmental consulting and laboratory services company, told news.com.au that meth contamination is insidious, often going undetected with no obvious warning signs.
Unlike other substances, such as tobacco or cannabis, there is no telltale evidence of use which makes it hard to detect as homebuyer or landlord.
“There is a big misconception with meth that it is just a drug like cannabis or cigarette smoke,” Mr Goodall said.
The contamination also remains in the home long after the manufacturers or users have moved out, even if there have been renovations.
“Methamphetamine is different. It is chemical-based so it does not go away. It isn’t biodegradable and it doesn’t disappear. Contamination can remain in the house for years and years after it was smoked or manufactured in the house,” Mr Goodall told news.com.au.
“You might walk into a house with brand new carpets and brand new paint and a nice, new renovated kitchen. You can’t see what is underneath it. That house is potentially still contaminated … You can paint over the plaster board but the stuff will leak back through the paint. It does not go away.”
“In an average scenario, you may have to remove the plaster boards and pull up the most absorbent materials in the house such as carpet and insulation,” Mr Goodall said.
“Heavy contamination can seep right into the timber of the house. Worst-case scenario you have to knock the house down because you can’t get rid of the contamination, but this is rare.”
Common exposure is through skin contact with surfaces containing meth residue or though inhalation of chemicals and organic compounds. This can lead to serious health issues with side effects including disrupted sleep, anxiety, respiratory problems, rashes, children with inattention or ADHD-like behaviour psychosis and damage to the brain, liver and kidneys.
NEW ZEALAND ON THE FRONT LINE
New Zealand has taken the lead when it comes to the awareness of methamphetamine contamination, prompting calls that Australia should follow suit.
Methamphetamine use took off in New Zealand in the early 2000’s with surveys showing it reached world-leading usage levels of 2.7 per cent in 2003. The rate of usage fell to 2.2 per cent in 2007/2008 and has since halved to about 1 per cent over the past four years.
But the government has made a concerted effort to drive awareness of contamination with the country at the forefront of regular screening.
“The socio-economic diversity of [meth] addicts in New Zealand suggest it has become an everyman’s drug; as attractive to high-powered businessman as it is to adolescents,” Rod de Vries, General Manager of Precise Consulting and Laboratory told news.com.au.
Housing NZ now spends almost $1 million a month on testing and cleaning up state homes contaminated with methamphetamine. A bill that Mr de Vries said is growing rapidly.
“Figures released to Newshub under the Official Information Act show a massive increase on previous years, with more than $5.8 million dollars spent in the seven months to January,” he told news.com.au.
“That’s more than eight times the amount spent in an entire year cleaning up [meth] in state houses just two years ago.”
As a result of the increased awareness and demand for screening, Mr de Vries said Precise has grown from two branches to five branches in the last two years.
“And while mandatory methamphetamine testing will not be part of our laws in the near future, it may be that individual organisations including letting agents will adopt this requirement as part of their internal health and safety policy under Health and Safety legislation here in NZ.
“The new HSWA [Health and Safety at Work Act] is a principal-based piece of legislation which does not contain a black and white list of known hazards and it certainly makes no specific mention of methamphetamine tests at rental properties. However, landlords — as PCBUs [Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking] under the Act — have a duty of investigating further and mitigating a known potential/or suspected risk.”