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Recommendations for methamphetamine contamination clean-up

Recommendations for methamphetamine contamination clean-up

26 October 2016

A Ministry of Health funded report provides key recommendations for the country's first national standard for methamphetamine contamination.

The report, prepared by ESR, recommends that a different level be used to guide clean up where meth has been used, compared to the level for houses where the drug has been manufactured.

The report recommends that the current contamination level that prompts a clean-up stays the same for houses where the drug has been manufactured but is four times higher for houses where the drug has only been used and where there isn’t any carpet or the carpet is removed. The level is three times higher for houses where only drug use is found, but where there is still carpet in the house.

The report notes that drug residue on carpets is more likely to result in chronic exposure to contamination for babies or toddlers who spend more time in contact with the floor.

The different levels reflect the level of health risk from living in a house where someone smoked methamphetamine, and living in a house used to manufacture the drug.

Living in a methamphetamine laboratory environment means potential exposure to chemicals at sufficient level to be linked to adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects from exposure to methamphetamine, organic solvents, acids, alkalis and other chemicals.

But people living in a house where previous occupants had only smoked methamphetamine means potential exposure to low concentrations of the drug on surfaces with a much reduced risk of toxicity.

The recommendations for houses with carpets in which there has only been drug use follow those used in California, and which are increasingly being adopted by other US states.

Based on the recommendations now provided, the Ministry of Health believes houses which don't trigger the clean-up levels for methamphetamine are as safe to occupy as any other similar house.

The Ministry of Health believes the new recommendations will help guide clean-up efforts based on an appropriate assessment of risk. The recommendations will now be considered by the committee appointed by Standards NZ to develop the new standard.

In the absence of a guideline for remediating property contaminated by methamphetamine use but not manufacture, these recommendations can be used in the interim. But the recommendations will not pre-empt the standard which is currently being developed.

While the Ministry's recommendations are being considered by the Standards Committee, its recommendations will be placed on the Ministry's website alongside its existing guidelines.

The new NZ Standard, once developed, will supersede the Ministry's existing Guidelines.

The Ministry of Health, which is also on the NZ Standards Committee considering the issue, will be working with agencies involved to look at how promote information about the new standard when it’s developed.

The recommended levels identified in the report are:

0.5 µg/100cm2 for houses where the drug has been manufactured (unchanged)
1.5 µg/100cm2 for houses where the drug has only been used – carpeted
2.0 µg/100cm2 for houses where the drug has only been used - uncarpeted.


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