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Indiana State Department of Health

Environmental Public Health Home > Methamphetamine Lab Response > Potential Hazards and Health Concerns Potential Hazards and Health Concerns

  • Methamphetamine labs have become a public health concern because of the hazardous waste by-products and methamphetamine residue.
  • There is an increase in potential for exposure because methamphetamine hydrochloride is a persistent salt that attaches to household surfaces and is absorbed into porous materials such as carpeting and upholstered furniture.
  • IEHA Common Meth Chemicals Chart 
  • IC 16-41-20: Chapter 20. Health, Sanitation, and Safety: Dwellings Unfit for Human Habitation

  • Meth Lab Residue

    Toxic droplets and particulates from the methamphetamine production process deposits chemicals and methamphetamine residues on interior surfaces including: walls, ceilings, floors, doors, cabinets, and furniture. Porous items such as carpet and upholstery readily absorb the meth residue and remain in the fabric unless removed by decontamination. Exposure to meth residue may cause adverse health effects and/or behavioral changes. Meth residue-contaminated properties need to be properly evaluated and decontaminated before being categorized as habitable by a public health official.

  • Potential Health Effects from Methamphetamine Residual Exposure depends on:
    • Specific chemicals to which a person is exposed,
    • How much of each chemical to which a person is exposed,
    • How the person is exposed,
    • The length of time that a person is exposed, and
    • The health condition of the person being exposed.
  • The methamphetamine final decontamination standard in Indiana according to 318 IAC 1 is 0.5ug/100cm2
  • Making meth releases a mist of meth-laden, chemical droplets/particulates.
  • Like Smoke Damage, leaves a meth residue coating surfaces, in porous materials, and in forced-air heating/cooling (HVAC) systems.
  • Possible Exposure Pathways from Meth Lab Residue:
    1. Inhalation
    2. Dermal/Trans-Dermal (skin absorption)
    3. Ingestion through hand to mouth contamination particularly applicable to young children
  • At Risk Populations to Methamphetamine Residue:
    1. Law Enforcement and other first responders
    2. Children
    3. Individuals with certain medical conditions
    4. Pregnant women
    5. Seniors
  • Young children are a high risk population because they spend approximately 80%-90% of their time indoors. Infants and young children have greater exposure to air pollutants because they are rapidly growing. Children also have a higher rate of oxygen consumption per unit body weight and narrower airways than adults.
  • Symptoms have been reported in law enforcement personnel and other first responders who have entered a drug lab before the site has been cleaned or ventilated.
  • Health Concerns of the One Pot Method “Shake and Bake”:
    • The shake and bake method is a pressurized mixture of hazardous and incompatible chemicals. Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine is extracted from over the counter preparations. Then the ephedrine/pseudoephedrine is combined with anhydrous ammonia gas from the ammonia nitrate/sulfate in cold packs and lithium from batteries to produce methamphetamine.
    • The final step to produce methamphetamine is the introduction of hydrochloric acid gas; which releases significantly more meth residue in comparison to the previous steps.
    • The miniature hazardous waste vessel is portable and easy to conceal.

  • Possible acute health effects from exposure to meth lab contaminants- during or immediately after ‘cooking’
    • Dizziness
    • Lack of coordination
    • Shortness of breath/cough
    • Chest pain
    • Chemical irritation or burns to skin, eyes, nose and mouth
  • Possible chronic health effects from exposure to methamphetamine residue- exposure over time.
    • Respiratory irritability
    • Disorientation
    • Behavioral changes
    • Neurological damage
    • Liver and kidney damage
  • Drug Endangered Children:
    • When Law Enforcement officers seize a clandestine drug lab, one of the gravest concerns is for the children living in that environment. Specific protocols have been written to outline the procedures to handle these children that have been placed in a harmful and hazardous environment by the adults responsible for their safety and well-being.
    • Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1-800-800-5556
    • Drug Endangered Children Response Protocol: http://www.in.gov/dcs/files/IN_DECResponseProtocol.pdf