Solvent Summary

Expected Concentrations:

Solvents are used in several steps during the production of methamphetamine. Solvents, frequently methanol and acetone, are used to dissolve pseudoephedrine or ephedrine from cold pills in the beginning of the operation. Solvents are also used as a solvent to remove the methamphetamine base from an aqueous solution and move it into an organic solution. The methamphetamine can then be precipitated from the solvent by adding hydrogen chloride and changing the pH to acidic.

There are a large number of solvents that can be used although Coleman Camp Fuel appears to be a favorite in many areas. Other solvents can also be used depending upon the experience of the cook. The expected levels of solvents based upon studies conducted by National Jewish Medical Center are usually relatively low (<100 ppm) but heating the solvent in order to evaporate it faster may result in extremely high airborne levels resulting in a significant explosion hazard.

Current standards for solvent exposures will vary with the solvent but may range from as low as 50 ppm to as high as 1000 ppm. Chlorinated solvents especially may be special concern due to liver toxicity.

General Health Effects:

The expected health effects due to solvent exposure will vary with the type of solvent used. Many of the solvents used contain a mixture of aliphatic hydrocarbons that are associated with mucous membrane irritation, headache, light-headedness, peripheral neuropathy, and central nervous system depression. Exposure to chlorinated solvent such as chloroform may result in disorientation, dizziness, nausea, fatigue and headache. Prolonged exposures may result in liver and kidney damage and liver cancer in animals have also been attributed to high long-term exposures.

Health Risks to Children:

Children with exposures to solvents are likely to have similar symptoms as do adults. Children may be more susceptible to pulmonary damage due to a greater lung surface area per body weight and a more rapid breathing rate.

Fetal Health Effects:

In one instance, exposure to a mixture of methanol and other solvents was reported to be linked to central nervous system birth defects in the fetus although other similar reports have not been available. Pregnant animals exposed to high levels of methanol have been found to have increased fetal absorption and a number of structural birth defects.

 

  1. Proctor, N.H. , Hughes, J.P. 1978. Chemical Hazards of the Workplace. J.B. Lippincott Co. Philadelphia, PA 533 pp.

Additional Information:

Technical Support Document: Toxicology Clandestine Drug Labs: Coleman Fuel
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Toxicology of Coleman Fuel
2003 Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Technical Support Document: Toxicology Clandestine Drug Labs: Freon
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment