There’s a long list of things you want to check when buying a house: How sturdy is the roof, whether the furnace is ancient, if the pipes look like they’re about to blow. But there’s something else you might want to check, and it takes more than a visual inspection: Was this home once a meth house?
The problem with occupying a space where someone once made the drug is that the chemicals don’t disappear with the former tenants. Some of the short-term symptoms associated with living in a meth lab include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, dizziness; and burns to skin, eyes, nose and, mouth, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. People who have unwittingly bought former labs report experiencing headaches, breathing problems, sinus troubles, and kidney ailments. These symptoms are often worst in children.
But there are a few ways to determine if a property in question had a sinister previous life. CNN has an interactive map showing where police have found these labs between 2004 and 2012. Dark spots with large concentrations show up in Washington, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, and more states. In 2013 alone, authorities busted 1,797 labs in Indiana and 1,545 in Tennessee.
The DEA’s website houses the National Clandestine Laboratory Register. The problem is that those are only the places the agency knows contained labs. Indiana, Illinois, California, Texas and many other states have laws that say homeowners have to disclose whether or not the property was used to manufacture drugs. Considering cleaning up can cost thousands of dollars and be quite a process, not everyone might be forthcoming with that information.
“I field a lot of calls from Realtors wanting to know if a property has been cleaned or cleared because people aren’t wanting to tell the truth,” Lori Endris, head of an Indiana drug-testing lab, tells NPR.
Recognizing a former meth lab isn’t always as easy as spotting lots of empty antifreeze containers or stained surfaces and being assaulted with strong odors when you enter the house. There are at-home testing kits, though the results may not be as accurate as hiring a professional. However, as the Minnesota Department of Health notes, the state doesn’t license or regulate contractors who specialize in testing and cleaning up meth labs.
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