The ingredients used to make methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories are generally household products that by themselves present little danger, but when combined can have serious toxic and explosive effects.
If you came in contact with a methamphetamine lab operation, how would you know it? What ingredients and equipment would be present? What should you do if you find a meth lab? Learn the signs of a potential Meth lab to protect your family and your property from catastrophic damage:
- A strong smell that might resemble urine, or an unusual chemical smell like ether, ammonia or acetone.
- Little or no traffic during the day, but lots of traffic at extremely late hours.
- Extra efforts made to cover windows or reinforce doors.
- Residents never putting their trash out.
- Lab materials surrounding the property (lantern fuel cans, red chemically stained coffee filters, clear glass jugs and duct tape).
- Vehicles loaded with trunks, chemical containers, or basic chemistry paraphernalia - glassware, rubber tubing, etc.
- Laboratory glassware being carried into the residence.
- Inhabitants smoking outside due to fumes.
- Propane tanks with fittings that have turned blue.
- An usual amount of cold tablet containers that list ephedrine or pseudoephedrine as ingredients.
- Jars containing clear liquid with a white or red colored solid on the bottom.
- Jars containing iodine or dark shiny metallic purple crystals inside of jars.
- Jars containing red phosphorus or a fine dark red or purple powder.
- Coffee filters containing a white pasty substance, a dark red sludge, or small amounts of shiny white crystals.
- Bottles containing sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid.
- Bottles or jars with rubber tubing attached (including soft drink bottles).
- Glass cookware or frying pans containing a powdery residue.
- An large number of cans of camp fuel, paint thinner, acetone, starter fluid, lye, and drain cleaners containing sulfuric acid or bottles containing muriatic acid.
- Large amounts of lithium batteries, especially ones that have been stripped.
- Soft silver or gray metallic ribbon (in chunk form) stored in oil or kerosene. Secretive/protective area surrounding the residence, like video cameras, alarm systems, guard dogs, reinforced doors, electrified fencing.
- Iodine or chemical stained fixtures in the kitchen and bath in sinks, tubs, and reddish stains in carpets or on wallpaper.
- Excessive yellow stains on walls and wood work due to exposure to iodine.
- Corrosion of metal fixtures (vents, vent hoods, etc.) due to exposure to iodine.
- White powder spills on countertops and floors.
- Excess coffee filters, plastic baggies, match book covers with striker plates removed, torn lithium battery casings, antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, drain cleaner and duct tape.
If spray starch applied to such carpet or wallpaper stains turns purple, the stain is caused by iodine, a key ingredient in Meth manufacturing. The presence of such stains may indicate previous Meth lab activity in the home.
Signs of Meth lab activity outside a home include burn piles, dead or dying vegetation or buried trash piles.
If You Find a Lab
Do not touch anything in the lab area and do not sniff any containers. Do not turn any electrical power switches or light switches on or off. Do not open or move any of the containers with chemicals in them.
Whatever you do, do not smoke, eat or drink anywhere near a methamphetamine laboratory.
If you come in contact with a meth lab, you should decontaminate yourself and your clothing as quickly as possible, and wash your hands and face thoroughly. Call your local authorities immediately and explain your concerns. Do not attempt to gather evidence on your own and never handle any of the materials that may be associated with a lab.
Cleaning up a clandestine meth lab is a dangerous and complicated process which should be handled by trained professionals. Do not attempt to clean up or dispose of a suspected meth lab yourself.
Visit my next blog and we will discuss the methods of decontaminating meth labs.