Meth Lab Decontamination:  A Review of Current Practices


Speaker:                     Sheila D Pressley, M.S.

Assistant Professor, Eastern Kentucky University


Level of Knowledge: Basic


Short Abstract:

Methamphetamine (meth) is a synthetic amphetamine that can be made with common household items such as drain cleaner and cold medications.  In addition to the people who cook or use meth, first responders, hazardous materials technicians, and property owners are also at risk to the dangers of meth.  Hazardous materials technicians are involved in decontaminating meth labs after an arrest or drug lab seizure is made.  For each pound of methamphetamine produced, five to six pounds of toxic waste are produced. The hazardous and explosive toxic chemicals involved in making meth are absorbed into the walls, vents, drains and carpets of homes, motel rooms, or other locations where meth is produced. Since meth labs are an emerging problem, there are currently no federal guidelines or regulations on how to clean up former meth lab properties for reoccupation. .

Long Abstract:

Athough there are no federal decontamination guidelines for meth contaminated sites or dwellings, some states have adopted recommended procedures for remediating meth labs.  Some states have also developed programs designed to alert the public about dangerous properties formerly used as meth labs.  Meth lab incidents were reported in every state in 2004 except Connecticut and Rhode Island.  The numbers were especially high in the southeast.  According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Missouri led the country with 2707 incidents and Tennessee was second with 1259. 

Methamphetamine is produced in various setting such as homes, motels, sheds, caves, trailers and motor vehicles, using common household chemicals and over the counter cold medications.  The most common ingredient is pseudoephedrine or ephedrine which can be found in common cold medications.  Drug makers or “cookers,” as they are typically called, mix and cook in other ingredients such as gasoline, rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, chlorine, drain cleaner and chemical fertilizer.  This presentation will examine the processes that many states are using to remediate meth labs, and protect the public from exposure.  The presentation will also discuss the health effects of meth exposure in children and adults.

Learning Objectives:

After the presentation, attendees will understand:


  1. The best methods for decontaminating meth labs, especially those found in single-family homes.
  2. The various levels of training recommended for workers who are involved in decontaminating meth labs.
  3. Understand current policies and regulations that attempt to protect the public from meth lab exposures.