Guidelines for Cleaning Up Former Methamphetamine Labs

The safest way to clean up a former methamphetamine (meth) lab is to hire an environmental company trained in hazardous waste removal and cleanup. Any person who enters the property should be aware that throughout the entire home, building materials and furniture may have absorbed contaminants and can continue to release chemicals. Wear clothing such as gloves, long sleeves, long pants, sturdy shoes, a dust mask, and protective eyewear if contacting surfaces.Be aware that general sanitation issues frequently exist at former meth labs and may include filth, pest infestations, and hypodermic needle hazards.

In October 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) released Voluntary Guidelines for Methamphetamine Laboratory Cleanup. These guidelines are based on an extensive review of the best available science and practices for cleanup and should be used in addition to the information provided in this fact sheet. A link to the USEPA guidelines follows.

While there is no method of cleaning that will guarantee complete safety, the procedures described in these documents provide the best current practice for reducing exposures to toxic chemicals used in meth manufacturing. Following the cleanup procedures will help to reduce health risk by reducing exposure to methamphetamine.

Air out the property

After law enforcement officials seize a lab, professionals trained to handle hazardous materials are generally called in to remove lab waste and bulk chemicals. During this removal, every effort should have been made to air out the property for the safety of the removal crew. This short-term ventilation may not be sufficient to clear out all air contaminants. Be sure the property has been ventilated for several days before cleaning. Maintain good ventilation throughout the cleanup process.

Contamination removal and disposal

During the meth cooking process, vapors are given off that can spread and be absorbed by nearby materials. Spilled chemicals, supplies and equipment can further contaminate non-lab items. Unnecessary and contaminated items should be removed from the property and rendered unusable. Dispose of these items in a local landfill as quickly as possible to prevent re-use.

Absorbent materials, such as carpeting, drapes and clothing can accumulate vapors that are dispersed through the air during the cooking process. They also may collect dust and powder from the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process. It is recommended that these materials be disposed of properly, especially if an odor or stain is present. It is less expensive to remove these articles than to collect samples and have them analyzed by a laboratory.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuuming

After removing carpets and other items for disposal, HEPA vacuum the floors, walls, and other hard surfaces to remove dirt, dust and cobwebs before washing with a detergent/water solution.

Surfaces

Surfaces such as walls, counters, floors, and ceilings, etc., are porous and can hold contamination from the meth cooking process, especially in areas where the cooking and preparation were done. Cleaning those areas is very important as people may come in frequent contact with these surfaces through food preparation and other household activities.

Complete a “once-over” detergent wash of the walls and floors to cut heavy contamination.

If a surface has visible contamination or staining, complete removal and replacement of that surface is recommended. This could include removal and replacement of appliances, plumbing fixtures, wallboard, floor coverings, and countertops.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Clean and seal the HVAC system. Do not run this system again until all other cleanup is complete.

Plumbing

In many properties, waste products generated during meth manufacturing are dumped down sinks, drains and toilets. These products can collect in drains, traps and septic tanks and give off fumes. Contact a plumbing contractor if you detect a strong chemical odor coming from household plumbing. Flush plumbing traps, unless wastewater from washing process will be flushed through the plumbing system. In this case, wait to flush plumbing until all wastewater has been flushed.

Detergent Wash

Use a detergent-water solution to wash ceilings, walls, floors, other surfaces, and non-porous furniture and other items that will be kept. Follow each wash with a thorough rinse using clean water and a clean cloth rag. When washing, change cloth rags and detergent-water solutions frequently. Repeat the cleaning and rinsing process two more times for a total of three washes and rinses. After washing, dispose of cloth rags appropriately.

Sampling

If post remediation sampling is to be done, ensure structure/items are completely dry before sampling. Sampling should be performed before repainting.

Repainting

After an interior surface has been cleaned it should be repainted with an oil-based paint, epoxy, or polyurethane primer followed by an additional coat of paint. Painting helps to provide a barrier between the contamination and anyone who may come in contact with the surface.

Where can I get more information?

Illinois Department of Public Health
Division of Environmental Health 
525 W. Jefferson St. 
Springfield, IL 62761 
217-782-5830 
TTY (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
http://www.epa.gov/oem/methlab.htm

This fact sheet was supported in part by funds from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act trust fund through a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Rev 1/12