Meth Labs And First Responders
By: TVR – a 28 year veteran First Responder.
Several studies involving law enforcement personnel responding to and investigating clandestine drug laboratories have shown significant evidence of adverse short and long-term health effects, primarily to the respiratory system.
When cooks make the drugs to feed America’s methamphetamine (meth) habit, it is done using toxic and highly combustible chemicals, in clandestine laboratories, called meth labs. The production process involves utilizing heat and chemical reactions to manufacture the finished product. Some examples of these highly volatile chemicals are: Acetone, Alcohol (isopropyl or rubbing), Anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), Ephedrine (cold medications), Ether (engine starter), Hydrochloric acid (pool supply), Iodine (flakes or crystal), Kitty litter, Lithium (batteries), Methanol (gasoline additive), MSM (nutritional supplement), Pseudoephedrine (cold medications), Red phosphorus (matches, flares), Salt (table or rock), Sodium hydroxide (lye), Sodium metal, Sulfuric acid (drain cleaner), Toluene (brake cleaner), and Trichloroethane (gun cleaner).
Consider that the chemicals and equipment used to “cook” meth in these illegal “chemically dirty” makeshift labs creates an immediate danger of explosion and fire, and, even when fire or explosion does not occur, methamphetamine production is dangerous. Simply being exposed to the toxic chemicals used to produce the drug poses a variety of health risks. The manufacturing process presents an immediate environmental hazard, and what is left behind is equally as toxic.
The process also leaves behind waste that contaminates the site, often a house, apartment or other dwelling, and poses a threat both to the environment and the health of first responders and future occupants. For this reason first responders should exercise extreme caution where illegal activity is suspected and it is recommended that as a rule operating personnel should use of all assigned personnel protective equipment (PPE).