Social Services Links
Information gathered from "Fostering perspectives, Volume 9 # 2 May 2005" published by the Family & Children's Resource Program and NC DSS.
Meth Lab Basics
Meth users have discovered a way to make the drug in small batches in homemade “labs,” using readily-available ingredients. These ingredients include cold medicine, matches, drain cleaner, and paint thinner. Although it is extremely dangerous, making meth does not require a chemistry background or special equipment.
In North Carolina meth labs have been found in homes, apartments, hotel rooms, vehicles, and close to schools. Meth labs can be highly mobile; some fit into a duffle bag or the trunk of a car. Statistics from California indicate that most cooks make meth 48 to 72 times a year. It takes between four and six hours to cook the drug. For every pound of methamphetamine they make, these labs generate five to seven pounds of toxic waste.
Effects on Children
Threats faced by children exposed to meth labs include the following.
A recent study of meth labs found that “chemicals spread throughout the house. The methamphetamine is deposited everywhere, from walls and carpets to microwaves, tabletops and clothing. Children living in those labs might as well be taking the drug directly.” Indeed, approximately 35% of children found in meth labs test positive for toxic levels of chemicals in their bodies, including meth. Children in meth labs most commonly come into contact with chemicals through inhalation and absorption through the skin. Long-term exposure to meth lab toxins can damage the nerves, lungs, kidneys, liver, eyes, and skin. It is not uncommon for children removed from meth labs to have chemically-induced asthma or pneumonia that clears up after the children are out of the lab. Experts report that approximately one in every six meth labs seized by authorities is discovered because of a fire or an explosion caused by careless handling and overheating of volatile, hazardous chemicals and waste and unsafe manufacturing methods.
When parents use or make meth, their children often lack necessities such as food, water, and shelter, and they frequently lack adequate medical care, including proper immunizations and dental care. In addition, the cycle of meth abuse has a built-in phase when parents “crash” and are unable to look after their children. Children in meth-using families may also face hazards such as used hypodermic needles and razor blades.
Exposure to parents intoxicated by meth may compromise child safety: when high, users often exhibit poor judgment, confusion, irritability, paranoia, and increased violence. Because meth increases the sexual appetites of users, children of meth users may be at greater risk for sexual abuse, either by parents themselves or by other adults coming in and out of the home.
Loaded firearms are found in easy-to-reach locations in the vast majority of meth labs. Dangerous animals and booby traps designed to protect meth labs pose added physical hazards. Children may even be involved in the manufacturing process, but receive no protective gear.
Effects on Communities
Meth labs have a tremendous impact on communities. In North Carolina typical cleanup costs for a meth lab are between $4,000 and $10,000. These costs must be absorbed by property owners and local and state government. Unlike other drugs, meth creates little revenue for law enforcement. Instead of seizing homes and valuables that can offset interdiction costs, officials are left with costly cleanup and ruined properties. Meth labs also pose a threat to the general public and the environment. Because clothing and other articles are so easily contaminated by meth production, toxins can quickly spread from one place to another, requiring involved cleanup. Meth cooks often dispose of lab waste by burning it, dumping it in streams, fields, and down toilets, or by simply leaving it behind in hotels, on roadsides, and in other public areas.
Department of Social Services
80 Academy Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
PO Box 610
Bryson City, NC 28713
Sheila Sutton, Director