photo by nathan russell
We all know that methamphetamines are bad for our health. Meth makes teeth fall out. It damages the workings of the brain and causes a slew of psychotic conditions that can last long after a person has stopped using. The consequences of methamphetamines go far beyond health and human tragedy. It can ruin farmland, make houses unlivable and destroy forests.
The Messy Method of Making Methamphetamines
There are thousands of methamphetamine recipes on the internet. With the investment of a few hundred dollars, a person can make meth, but the maker could see a return of thousands on that investment. Meth can be made from non-prescription medicines and other easily purchased items. The drug can be made in a lab that fits into a suitcase or in the trunk of a car.
The Toxic Chemicals Used in Meth-Making.
Methamphetamines are often made with these potent and toxic chemicals.
From the DEA website:
Starting fluid (ether)
Brake cleaner (toluene)
Drain cleaner (sodium hydroxide)
Battery acid (sulfuric acid)
Reactive metals (sodium or lithium)
Cold tablets containing psuedoephedrine
Each of the chemicals is harmful in its own right.
The Amount of Toxic Meth in America
For every one pound of methamphetamines produced, three to six pounds of toxic waste can be created. One batch of meth is enough to contaminate the air in a meth lab with trace amounts of acid and iodine. According to the DEA, there are over 100,000 meth labs in the US. A 1998 survey found that over 4.7 million Americans have taken meth. That's a lot of meth-related toxic waste.
Packaging Waste a Small Issue
A meth lab proprietor may buy several hundred dollars worth of cold tablets per batch. The packaging waste alone is enough to make anyone cringe, but it might be the smallest environmental impact of meth use. If you don't care enough about your body to not do meth, then you probably aren't going to recycle those packages.
Methamphetamines a Clear Danger to the Environment
Illicit methamphetamine dumping has killed livestock. A group of forestry workers were taken ill when they came in contact with a meth dump. A meth lab that had been operating for several years produced so many toxic fumes that the surrounding trees, 150-year-old ponderosa pines, had died. Tree kills around meth labs are not rare occurrences. In fact, 26,000 acres of Tahoma State Forest were closed* because of meth pollution. (* not ruined, verb corrected, sorry)
Cleaning Up a Toxic Meth Lab
Even former meth labs are dangers. Fumes in the walls and the heating ducts can cause cancer, short and long-term brain damage, problems of the immune system and respiratory illness. Some states have strict meth clean-up laws and most realtors must inform potential house buyers if their home was formerly a meth lab. The average clean up is about $3,000 dollars but larger labs have cost counties and states over $100,000. Even when the area is "cleaned up" the property may not be fit to inhabit. According to an article in Sierra Magazine, some counties will not confiscate a meth-polluted property due to the liability risks. One police officer was even quoted as saying,
"I'd rather investigate a homicide than a meth lab. "