March 3, 2005

Toxic Meth Byproducts Need Research

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Even as law enforcement cracks down on clandestine labs cooking up methamphetamine across the country, there's no consensus on how to handle the drug's toxic byproducts, experts said Thursday.

A House bill, introduced by Reps. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Ken Calvert, R-Calif., would ask the Environmental Protection Agency to set voluntary standards for cleaning such sites and to fund research on the health effects, particularly on children and first-responders.

"We want to put this on a fast track," said Boehlert, chairman of the House Committee on Science.

Experts say little is known about how long meth-related contamination lasts, how best to clean it up, and how toxic byproducts affect people on or near polluted sites.

The process of cooking meth, often in clandestine labs in homes, cars or trailers, can leave a coating on the walls, floors and ventilation systems of a building. In addition, every pound of meth cooked creates between 4 and 6 pounds of toxic waste, which is often dumped nearby or in remote public places.

Seven states have guidelines for cleaning contaminated property, ranging from airing out the site and washing it with household cleaners to conducting detailed assessments to determine the level of contamination, said Sherry Green, executive director of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.

Meth users account for 607,000 of the country's 19.5 million drug users in 2003, according to the most recent statistics from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

But Scott Burns, the office's deputy director for state and local affairs, said the numbers belie the drug's danger.

"Yabba, ice, crystal, crank, meth - whatever you want to call it, it is the most destructive drug," Burns said.


On the Net:

Information on the bill, H.R. 798, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/

Office of National Drug Control Policy: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/