Meth testing and contamination clean-up standards up for Government review

Standards New Zealand and 18 panel members meet on June 29 to set a national standard for meth testing.
PETER DRURY/FAIRFAX NZ

Standards New Zealand and 18 panel members meet on June 29 to set a national standard for meth testing.

The country's first national standard for meth contamination is in the pipeline, with 18 organisations meeting to thrash out agreement on testing and clean-ups.

Standards New Zealand meets on June 29 for the cross-party talks and wants to a new meth-testing standard in place by June next year.

Insurance Council operations manager, Terry Jordan, said the the standard was due because there was a degree of "paranoia" about the safety of meth contaminated property.

Massey University senior lecturer Nick Kim says current guidelines for meth contamination are often confused for unsafe ...
BRUCE MERCER/STUFF

Massey University senior lecturer Nick Kim says current guidelines for meth contamination are often confused for unsafe exposure levels.

The number of companies offering to test and clean homes was a "pretty good indication of where the market is at", he said.

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"It could well be that the market changes because there are all these P lab clean-up companies. It's almost like there's a paranoia about it," Jordan said.

In 2010, after a string of reports about illegal meth labs, the Ministry of Health set guidelines for methamphetamine contamination at 0.5 micrograms of methamphetamine per 100 square centimetres.

At this level, homeowners were required to clean the site to make it habitable.

Meth Solutions director, Miles Stratford, a member of the new Standards New Zealand panel, said meth-testing and cleaning companies were following Ministry of Health contamination guidelines.

It was hard for meth-testing contractors to test properties consistently and for property owners to act on the results without a national standard, he said.

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Concern about the number of meth labs and properties contaminated by smoking was not a beat up, he said. 

Independent Property Managers Association president, Karen Withers, said it didn't have a recommendation for a new contamination threshold, but property managers wanted clear guidance to "do the right thing" by clients.

Testing companies had different toxicity standards and approaches to decontaminating buildings, she said.

Massey University public health lecturer Nick Kim, a technical advisor to the panel, said current Ministry of Health guidelines for meth contamination were skewed toward "Breaking Bad-type" meth lab production rather than home smoking.

In a June 18 report on the subject Kim said: "The majority of the potential health risks associated with buildings used as meth labs are linked to the inhalation of higher-volume and toxic volumes that are used in the manufacturing process..."

The Ministry of Health may have raised the trigger point for clean-ups if it had foreseen the amount of meth smoking in homes and other buildings, like motels, Kim said in his report.

The ministry's baseline was often confused for a safe maximum level of meth contamination, he said.

National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep earlier this month said there was a big difference between living in a house where someone smoked methamphetamine, and living in a house that was used to manufacture the drug. 

"People living in a laboratory environment risk suffering adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects following the exposure to organic solvents, acids, alkalis and other chemicals.

"However, people dwelling in a house where previous tenants had smoked methamphetamine, and there is some evidence of low concentrations on surfaces, have minimal risks of toxicity.

"The risks would be similar for people who live in a house that had previous dwellers who smoked cigarettes or marijuana. They will have exposure to these drugs but the concentrations will not be sufficiently high enough to cause either psychoactive or toxic effects to people who may have had inadvertent, and brief, dermal contact with these surfaces."

 - Stuff

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