Methamphetamine Manufacturing in the United States

Posted by mpolkabla On June - 29 - 2013

Due to a number of factors currently present within today’s society, an increase in the use and distribution of illegally manufactured drugs has been experienced over the recent years.  In fact, the currently popular illegal street drug, methamphetamine (also commonly known as “crank”, “ice”, “crystal” or “speed”) is easily synthesized by illegal “would-be” producers and is now the most common illegal drug manufactured in the United States accounting for 98 percent of all illegal drug labs according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency.  Manufacturing operations rage from individuals making enough for their personal use with synthesis methods such as the Shake & Bake (or One-Pot) methods to highly organized Mexican cartels which are now producing huge quantities of meth in what are called “Super Labs”, in this new multi-Billion Dollar industry.   In fact, over 15 tons of raw methamphetamine product was recently seized in western Mexico by law enforcement with an estimated street value of over 4 Billion dollars.

It is widely understood that the chemicals, materials, recipes, and techniques needed in the synthesis of methamphetamine products are readily available to illegal manufacturers from common sources.  In fact, everything needed to manufacture methamphetamine can be purchased at many convenience and/or drug stores including (for example) Walmart, K-Mart, and Walgreens.  Generally speaking, the chemical reactions employed to produce meth involves the purification and conversion of amphetamine, as extracted from many common over-the-counter non-prescription drugs like Sudafed into methamphetamine through a series of easily performed (but highly dangerous) chemical reactions.  One synthesis method, known as the Red-phosphorous method (known as the Nazi method),  utilizes many highly hazardous chemicals such as phosphorous (taken from matches), iodine (a common antiseptic), sodium hydroxide (from pipe cleaners), and Hydroiodic acid.   Other common methods of synthesis known as the P2P method, utilizes products such as lithium metal (taken from lithium Batteries), common camping fuel/solvent, ammonium nitrate (collected from cold paks or common fertilizer), and lye (drain/pipe cleaner).   Now the most common and fastest method of synthesis used by individuals called the Shake & Bake (or One-Pot) method can produce small amounts of un-purified methamphetamine from easily obtained household and consumer products in as little as an hour and can be hidden in an areas as small as a backpack.  Aside from the widely known detrimental effects associated with short term and/or chronic use of this illegal drug, the process of synthesis and production of methamphetamine uses several extremely hazardous and volatile chemicals and generates a number of highly toxic vapors, residues, products, and wastes.

Common waste materials typically include toxic vapors (such as anhydrous ammonia and phosgene) corrosive acids and bases, flammable solvents, reactive chemicals, the final synthesized methamphetamine drug product itself.  It is widely accepted that abandoned chemical products and/or drug synthesis products/residues may also present significant health risks and hazards to individuals through, potential explosions and exposures to surface residues and/or hazardous vapors when entering or unknowingly occupying a residence or an area previously used to manufacture and store such materials.   Based on such concerns, the California State Legislature has enacted and written into law the “Methamphetamine Contaminated Property Cleanup Act of 2005”.  This law was proposed under Assembly Bill (AB) 1078, signed by our State Governor, and is codified under Chapter 6.9.1 Section 25400.10, Division 20 of the Health and Safety Code (Regulatory Standard).  Under this current law, specific requirements have been established in the assessment and mitigation of properties found to be contaminated by the manufacture, conversion, and/or storage of  methamphetamine.  This law also contains very strict cleanup standards and disclosure requirements wherein information relative to the existence of a methamphetamine synthesis laboratory must be disclosed by the owners (in writing) to the purchasers and/or tenants of properties contaminated by illegal methamphetamine synthesis activities.  (Civil codes 1102.18 and 1940.7.5, Chapter 466, SB189)

Mr. Michael A. Polkabla, BioMax Environmental’s Senior Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) has a great deal of experience in the assessment and cleanup oversight of residences and properties contaminated by the manufacture, storage, and use of methamphetamine.  In fact, Mr. Polkabla recently performed the assessment and managed the cleanup of the largest meth bust in US History where over 850 pounds of purified crystal meth was discovered in an upscale townhouse located in northern California.