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Environmental Epidemiology Program

Additional Information About Decontamination

Presedence of Information

This information is provided to clearify decontamination requirements found in Utah Rule 392-600 (Illegal Drug Operations Decontamination Standards). However, the rule take presedence over any information provided here.

Sources of Contamination

Properties can become contaminated from any kind of methamphetamine activity including the production, use, cutting, selling, or distribution. Persons who are personally contaminated (such as on their clothing or in their hair) can carry contamination into a property when they visit or enter the property. The level of contamination depends on the amount of activity conducted on the property. A single event can result in detectable levels of contamination.

Building Properties Involved in Methamphetamine Production or Use

A methamphetamine lab (also called a clandestine drug lab or an illicit drug lab), is where methamphetamine is actively manufactured using chemistry. There are many different ways that methamphetamine can be manufactured. Each method has its own list of chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process. Often the chemicals used to make methamphetamine are more harmful than methamphetamine itself. It is not possible to test for all of the possible chemicals that may have been used. The presence of methamphetamine is used as an indicator that other harmful chemical contaminations may be present in the property. This is why the decontamination standards are aggressive in the cleaning or removal of contaminated surfaces.

Under the current Utah Rule 392-600, when a property has been identified as a methamphetamine lab and has had police activity, decontamination is required. The current standard for decontamination in Utah is 1.0 µg/100cm² (read as one microgram of methamphetamine per 100 square centimeters of surface area). Properties with contamination levels that exceed this standard are required to be decontaminated until the contamination level is at or below the standard.

Utah Rule 392-600 applies to properties where methamphetamine was manufactured or used. Methamphetamine, without the presence of precursor compounds used in its manufacture, is soluable in water and sensitive to surfactants (e.g., soaps) and sanitizing agents (e.g., bleach). It is typically easier to decontaminate a property when it is certain that only methamphetamine use occurred.

Specific requirements for decontamination can be found in Utah Rule 392-600. Each local health department is authorized to promulgate ordinances specific to their jurisdiction and needs. It's recommended that you contact your local health department before beginning the clean-up process is recommended.

Because methamphetamine production and use results in aerosolization of hazardous compounds which then may contaminate every surface in a property, clean-up can require extensive decontamination and testing. The Environmental Epidemiology Program recommends using a certified decontamination specialist when decontaminating a property. A list of currently certified decontamination specialists can be found here: List of Certified Decontamination Specialists in Utah.

Mobile Properties (Vehicles, Trailers, etc.) Where Methamphetamine Was Used or Produced

There is very little research available to help guide how to decontaminate surfaces (upholstery, fabrics, plastics, etc.) found in mobile properties. The limited information that is available was summarized by the Utah APPLETREE Program in January 2017 and can be found here: Methamphetamine Contamination of a Stolen Recreational Vehicle.

When to Test for Methamphetamine Contamination

The Utah Department of Health recommends that properties be tested for methamphetamine contamination before all property transactions (buying/selling, leasing, etc.).

The following conditions may indicate that a property was used for the production of methamphetamine:

  • A large amount of cold tablet containers that list ephedrine or pseudoephedrine as one of the ingredients.
  • Jars containing a clear liquid with a white or red colored solid on the bottom.
  • Jars labeled as containing iodine or dark shiny metallic purple crystals.
  • Jars containing red phosphorus or a fine dark red or purple powder.
  • Coffee filters containing a white pasty substance, a dark red sludge, or small amounts of shiny white crystals.
  • Bottles labeled as containing sulfuric acid, muriatic acid, or hydrochloric acid.
  • Bottles or jars with rubber tubing attached.
  • Glass cookware or frying pans containing a powdery residue.
  • An unusually large number of cans of camp fuel, paint thinner, acetone, or starter fluid.
  • An unusually large number of containers of lye or drain cleaners.
  • Large amounts of lithium batteries, especially ones that have been stripped.
  • Soft silver or gray metallic ribbons (in chunk form) stored in oil or kerosene.
  • Propane tanks with brass fittings that have turned blue.
  • A strong smell of urine or other unusual chemical smells like ammonia, acetone or ether.

Acceptable Testing

Utah's local health departments only accept tests results performed by a state certified decontamination specialist. Many companies, home inspectors, home building supply stores, and other businesses offer test kits or services for conducting testing. The results from these activities may be useful as a screening tool, but are not an acceptable method of determining the level of methamphetamine decontamination in a property. Be sure to check with your local health department for additional information about their acceptable testing procedures.

The Decontamination Process

Methamphetamine decontamination is regulated by Utah Rule 392-600, and by local ordinances set forth by each local health department. Before beginning the decontamination process, the Utah Department of Health recommends that you contact your local health department. Although the specific process may differ for each local health department, the general process outlined by the state rule is as follows:

  1. Once a property has been confirmed by law enforcement as a meth lab, the property will be placed on the local health department's "Contaminated Properties List"
  2. Certified Decontamination Specialists, or the owner of record, must do a Preliminary Assessment of the property.
  3. A work plan detailing what and how the decontamination work will be done is submitted and reviewed by the local health department by the owner of record, or the decontamination specialist.
  4. After the work plan is followed and completed, confirmation sampling by a Certified Decontamination Specialist must have results that fall below the State's decontamination standard.
  5. After the confirmation sampling has been completed, a final report must be completed and turned into the local health department.
  6. Once the local health department has reviewed and approved the final report, the property will be removed from the local health department's "Contaminated Properties List".

Decontamination Specialists

In Utah, there are certified decontamination specialists who have been certified by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) to test homes for methamphetamine contamination and to clean up homes that have been contaminated.

For a list of certified individuals and companies, click HERE.

Prices among certified decontamination specialist vary, so it is recommended you obtain bids from several before beginning the process.

A certified decontamination specialist must meet the following requirements:

  • Pass a written examination
  • Health and Safety Training (to meet OSHA requirements)
  • Pay application fee

To learn more about becoming a Certified Decontamination Specialist click HERE.

Several local health departments require using a certified decontamination specialist for both testing and remediation. Make sure to check with your local health department before beginning the cleanup process.

Decontamination Standards

Under the current Utah Rule 392-600, when a property has been identified as a lab, has had police activity or tests above the current state standard, decontamination is required. The current standard for decontamination is 1.0 µg/100cm² (micrograms per 100 centimeters squared). The Environmental Epidemiology Program at the Utah Department of Health feels that this is a safe and achievable threshold for decontamination. The process for determining this level is described here: Development of Utah's Methamphetamine Decontamination Standard.

List of Contaminated Properties

Homes that have been identified as a meth lab and reported by the police are required to be placed on a list of contaminated properties. Each local health department maintains a list of contaminated properties within their jurisdiction. As soon as the property has been properly remediated, it is removed from the list. The Utah Department of Health does not maintain or have access to lists of contaminated properties.

 

 

 

Last Reviewed and Updated January 30, 2019