A methamphetamine testing company in Sydney has revealed that three in every five of the properties it has tested have returned positive results for dangerous levels of chemical exposure from drug use. As landlords, property owners and managers and tenants have all become increasingly aware of the dangers of methamphetamine residue, demand for testing services has seen a significant upswing.

According to the testing company, some homes have returned levels of toxic residue 1000 times the safe limit for habitation. National health guidelines state that any more than 0.5 micrograms of the drug on an area of 100sq/cm poses a health risk, while some experts believe that that amount can be left behind by heavy smoking of the drug indoors, as well by way of the manufacturing process.

The first-hand accounts of testing companies correlate with the latest findings of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program analyses drug use by testing 47 treatment plants across the country. Across Australia, ice consumption rose significantly in the last 12-month testing period, particularly in regional areas.

The effects of owning or renting a meth-contaminated home are wide-ranging. For most people, the most severe ramifications are the effect on their health and that of their family. A report released by the Centre for Disease Control focused on a case study of a family in Western Australia, who unknowingly purchased a house that had previously been used as a meth lab and moved their family and three small children into the home. All family members experienced adverse health effects while living in the house.

The report by the CDC outlined the range of significant health effects that can arise from living in an environment with exposure to methamphetamine residue. It includes the development of asthma-like symptoms, trouble sleeping, behavioural changes, irritability, aloof, anxiety, skin rashes, persistent coughs, irritability, watery eyes, weight loss and decreased memory capacity.

Outside of the huge health issues, the other major problem with methamphetamine exposure is the decontamination of the property. To establish a contamination level – or lack thereof – most testing companies offer their services at approx. $250 for initial testing, with more in-depth analysis costing $2000 and up. Then there are the clean-up fees – if the experts performing the testing believe it’s viable. Some properties are so contaminated that they have to be demolished because of the depth of the contamination into the house’s structure.

Cleaning a meth-exposed property can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. For example, Australia’s largest methamphetamine clean up company, MethLabs states that clean up starts from $10,000 and can quickly spiral out to five times that much, which doesn’t necessarily cover personal belongings. Some residents of meth houses report having to dispose of their belongings, triple-wrapped in plastic to prevent contamination to groundwater supplies.

There’s plenty of debate about who should be cleaning up, and more importantly, who should foot the bill. Western Australia is in the process of introducing mandatory methamphetamine exposure testing laws in rental properties, which would allow landlords or homeowners to determine under which tenant the methamphetamine contamination occurred. Some private service providers already offer this, using testing log books at the beginning of tenancy to establish a base reading, before testing again during and after the occupancy to determine whether the levels have changed, and if so, which tenant was responsible.

The best plan of action for homeowners and landlords is a combination of regular testing – some services will offer a total home services package annually to ensure legislative compliance – as well as a comprehensive insurance policy. The LandLord Complete offering includes cover for drug laboratory clean up without limit and malicious damage by tenants, which ensures your property is protected from the hazards of methamphetamine contamination.

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