How Long Does Meth Contamination Last on Surfaces ???

Posted by mpolkabla On August - 5 - 2016

As BioMax Environmental’s Senior Certified Industrial Hygienist, I have frequently been asked…  “How long does Methamphetamine residue contamination last on surfaces and do these concentrations change (do they degrade/lessen) over time?”  

This is a very important question when it comes to the cleanup of sites years after discovery and/or if the owners find out that their site or (residence) was contaminated by previous occupants.  In answering that question, I had the fortunate opportunity to participate manage a project where a methamphetamine lab was discovered in 2002 within a vacation residence in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.  The clandestine drug lab site was discovered by law enforcement and red-tagged by the local health department.  A third-party consultant was then hired to perform a preliminary sampling assessment of the interior and basement areas of the residence.  What was found were concentrations of methamphetamine residues ranging from 10 to 100 micrograms per 100 cm2 present within accessible surfaces within the residence.  These levels exceeded the (now) current California cleanup criteria standard of < 1.5 ug/100cm2 and required cleanup under the authority of the local health department.

Unfortunately (or “fortunately” for the purposes of this study) the homeowners did not have the funds to contract the cleanup, so the property remained red-tagged, boarded, and idle without occupants for over 8 years.  Then in 2011 BioMax was contacted to reinitiate the project on behalf of the owners who now wanted to sell the property based on increased property values.  Not knowing how much methamphetamine residues remained within the residence and/or if the residues had degraded over this extended time, BioMax performed additional surface sampling within the residence and determined that the concentrations from 2002 to 2011 had in fact, NOT changed significantly and remained at similar levels on representative surfaces sampled after this extended period of time.  The actual concentration levels were shown to exceed the current California cleanup criteria standard at surprisingly similar levels as measured in 2002 thereby requiring cleanup just as before…  The methamphetamine concentrations on these sampled surfaces did NOT degrade over time.

What we know about methamphetamine residues is that meth is a relatively “sticky” synthetic material that deposits from aerosols and vapors (from either manufacturing, storage, handling, and/or “recreational use”) directly onto interior surfaces and remain there for extended periods of time.  This test project served as a perfect test case in a controlled real-world environment to allow us to quantitatively compare residue levels on undisturbed surfaces over an extended period of time.  What the findings clearly showed was that once meth residues are deposited on various interior and basement surfaces (walls, floors, cabinets, exposed framing, etc.) that they do not degrade to any significant degree and remain on these surfaces for extended periods of time…  years in fact!

BioMax has extensive experience (over 20+ years) in methamphetamine assessment sampling and in the supervision and oversight of the mitigative cleanup process  throughout California and the western United States.  Mr. Polkabla has also consulted and worked with the California Department of Toxics Substances Control (DTSC), also know as Cal-EPA in the development and implementation of current methamphetamine assessment and cleanup regulations and standards within California.