Anne-Marie and her partner spent the better part of a year looking for a dream home in Longmont, CO that fit their budget.
They had a property under contract when they discovered that a former occupant had been a methamphetamine smoker. It was then discovered (through independent testing) that the former occupant was not only smoking meth, but cooking it also. The property’s Housefax Report shows this activity (but to our surprise, the DEA website does not.)
Professional meth lab cleanup contractors estimate that about 90% of meth labs are never discovered, and their tenants will likely never know about their homes’ toxicity. Clean up costs can easily exceed $30,000 to make the home healthy again. But even a cleaned up meth lab can pose serious health risks.
So how can you protect you and your family from this growing epidemic? Always run a Housefax Report first on a property you’re interested in buying or renting. Here are a few other things you need to know….
What are the health hazards of former meth labs?
For every pound of meth produced, five to seven pounds of chemical waste is left behind. Meth molecules can cling to walls and floors, accumulate in carpets and cabinets and penetrate materials like insulation and drywall, according to Glenn Morrison, an associate professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Even worse, they can be re-emitted for months or even years.
Short-term exposure to these chemicals can lead to headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Over a long period, liver and kidney damage, neurological problems, and increased risk of cancer can occur, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Children are especially susceptible to these dangerous chemicals.
How can you spot a former meth lab?
We learned from AMC’s hit TV Show, Breaking Bad that meth labs can pop up anywhere. Here’s a list of warning signs that indicate meth activity may have been present in a home:
- Yellow discoloration on walls, drains, sinks and showers
- Blue discoloration on valves of propane tanks and fire extinguishers
- Smoke detectors that are removed–or taped off
- Burning eyes, itchy throat, a metallic taste in your mouth, or breathing problems when in the home
- Strong odors that smell similar to materials often found in a garage, such as solvent and paint thinner, or odors of cat urine or ammonia
- Windows are blacked out
- Dark red phosphorous stains in the sinks, toilets and/or bathtubs, or red staining on the interior walls, counter tops and flooring
- Signs of chemical burns and spills on the counter tops and flooring
- Visible areas in the yard where chemicals have been dumped
- Dead or dying vegetation
- Burn pits outside with chemical container remains
- Packaging or containers from cold medicines
- Coffee filters unused and used with red stains in them
Do sellers have to disclose a former meth lab?
When it comes to meth labs, BUYER BEWARE. Unlike lead paint, there are no federal rules that require sellers or their agents to disclose a home’s meth history. Instead, disclosure regulations are made by the individual states and can vary dramatically. Here’s an interactive map of disclosure laws by state
Where can you go to find a list of former meth labs?
The DEA website is a good start but it’s not complete. In fact, the DEA has a disclaimer, saying “In most cases, the source of the entries is not the Department, and the Department has not verified the entry and does not guarantee its accuracy.” Take Ann-Marie’s former home in Longmont, CO. There’s no record of it on the DEA website, but it is appearing on the Housefax Report which is why we encourage you to be diligent and always run a Housefax Report.
Another good source is neighbors. If you suspect something might not be right, ask around. Especially for rental properties and foreclosures.
Where does Housefax get its information?
Housefax pulls reported meth labs from a number of sources, not just law enforcement. In fact, since 2004 the DEA has reported 24,484 total meth labs in the U.S. with a valid property address, while Housefax reports 52,798 meth lab property addresses.
“Millions of people live in properties that were used as meth labs,” said Joseph Mazzuca, who co-founded Meth Lab Cleanup in Athol, Idaho. Former meth labs not only pose financial hardships but also significant health risks. Housefax has access to millions of records that can affect property and home values, including meth lab activity and other environmental hazards. Run a Housefax Report and KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY.