EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Investigators have a very important warning for parents. They are getting reports of kids stumbling across meth labs discarded on the side of the road and even in the woods.
After receiving reports, area investigators are now warning parents to not pick up something that may look harmless, like a backpack or soda bottle, on the side of the road. Authorities tell WTOC months after a meth lab is no longer in operation, the lingering fumes can still make folks sick. Folks moving into a new apartment or buying a house should do some research first.
Methamphetamine is the most dangerous drug problem affecting many communities in the area.
Just breathing the fumes left over from a meth lab in an apartment building or a home next door can make someone very ill.
"It can burn your skin, irritate your eyes, burn your lungs and possibly the methamphetamine can get in your system," said Effingham County Cpl. Steve Blunt.
The probability that methamphetamine will contaminate a building where a cook has occurred is almost certain. Even months later, lingering fumes can do harm.
"I think anytime you are going to move into a home and you are going to live there for an extended period of time, you want to know everything you can about that house," said Lisa Corbit, environmental manager in Mecklenburg County, NC.
It is highly likely that the fumes from meth labs will contaminate furniture, floors, walls, furnishings, clothing and personal items such as toys, causing nose and throat irritation, dizziness, or nausea.
"If you have a professional team come in and the clean the surfaces of the home they have bleach foggers they can leave in the home overnight," Blunt said. "That's what they do in other states that require it to be done by law."
The biggest concern for agents is outside the home, with discarded meth labs buried in yards or on the side of the road.
"We are getting calls on a fairly regular basis where children are playing in the woods and come across something that doesn't look right, they call their parents and then they call us and we come out and dispose it for them," Blunt said. "You are also going to find it on the side of the highways, on the side of your dirt roads."
So what does a meth lab look like?
"What you are mainly going to see if a two litter or twenty ounce bottles," he said. "Sometimes they are sealed, sometimes they are not. Some of the bottles are going to have an aquarium tubing coming out of the top of it. You are going to find lithium strips from the inside of batteries. You are going to find camp fuel cans."
If you do see a discarded meth lab or feel as though your house may have been exposed, contact authorities immediately .
Do your own research.
First, check the Drug Enforcement Administration's website. They have a national meth lab registry that shows where meth labs have been found. But keep in mind, this is not a comprehensive list.
Call the environmental health agency in your area. They should have a record of any residence where a meth lab was discovered and what the homeowner was required to clean up.
Contact your local sheriff or police office to see if they know of any meth labs at the address.
The best thing you can do is go to the neighborhood and speak with neighbors. They usually know if there has been any recent criminal activity and will likely tell you if a meth lab has been in the area.
If you are unsure if a home with a former meth lab was cleaned properly before you moved in, check with your insurance company. There are tests available and your homeowner's policy may cover those expenses.
More facts and resources on meth labs:
•According to the DEA's website, there were 340 meth clandestine laboratory incidents including labs, Dumpsters, chem/glass/equipment in 2011. There were 10,287 incidents nationwide.
•DEA fact sheet about meth:
Street Names: Meth, Speed, Ice, Chalk, Crank, Fire, Glass, and Crystal.
Physical Effects: Methamphetamine is a toxic, addictive stimulant. Meth use dilates the pupils and produces temporary hyperactivity, euphoria, a sense of increased energy, and tremors.
Dangers: Methamphetamine use increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and rate of breathing, and it frequently results in violent behavior in users. Methamphetamine is neurotoxic, meaning that it causes damage to the brain. High doses or chronic use have been associated with increased nervousness, irritability, and paranoia. Withdrawal from high doses produces severe depression. Chronic abuse produces a psychosis similar to schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, self absorption, and auditory and visual hallucinations. Violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic, high-dose methamphetamine abusers.
Description: Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally, and its appearance varies depending on how it is used. Typically, it is a white bitter-tasting powder that easily dissolves in beverages. Another common form of the drug is crystal meth, or "ice," named for its appearance (that of clear, large chunky crystals resembling rock candy). Crystal meth is smoked in a manner similar to crack cocaine and about 10 to 15 "hits" can be obtained from a single gram of the substance.
Distribution Methods: Meth is frequently sold through social networks and is rarely sold on the streets.
•According to the DEA, the states with the highest number of meth incidents in 2011 - Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, Oklahoma and Iowa.
•Meth labs pose serious dangers to the public due to exposure to toxic fumes and the possibility of explosion.
•DEA estimates that the average direct cost to clean up a lab several years ago was about $17,000, but that cost is now $2,000 to $3,000 per lab.
•Meth lab explosions have resulted in fires, chemical burns, serious physical injuries, and death.
•Every pound of meth produces five pounds of toxic waste, and cookers frequently dump the toxic waste on the ground or in the water supply, which pollutes the environment.