Indications of Meth Lab – What to Look For

On a recent home inspection in Scottsdale, our home inspector noticed some rather unique sights and smells. After a quick call to another home inspector in Scottsdale it became clear that the home had been used as a meth lab.

Chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamines pose a serious health risk to anyone exposed to the ingredients. The costs to clean-up a meth house are staggering and the legal liability can be substantial. Red flags include:

Unusual amounts of garbage.

Look for cold tablet boxes; red-stained coffee filters or sheets; light bulbs, which are used for smoking meth; hoses and tubing running out of a house; windows left open, even in winter; red spots on carpeting and even dead spots on the lawn. Among the waste may be matchbooks missing their striker (strikers provide phosphorus used in making meth). If a renter or neighbor seems to be going through an unusual number of propane bottles, there’s a good chance he’s not just a barbecue fanatic. If the bottles are tinged with blue around the top, it’s almost a sure sign they’re cooking meth.

Meth manufacturing techniques can leave behind odors and stains.

Cat urine, ether (sweet smell), vinegar, ammonia, acetone (fingernail polish remover), or other chemical smells. Additionally, dark stains on counters, in sinks or bathtub/shower are often left behind. Stains on walls may become noticeable if a photo, or other wall hanging is moved, revealing the contrast between stained and unstained.

Chemical supplies and equipment may be present.

Often the equipment is made from what is handy. This might include funnels and tubing, plastic tubs, mason jars, buckets, coolers and plastic containers or bottles, possibly containing unidentifiable clear, red, white or sludgy layers. Over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, anhydrous ammonia, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaners, battery acid, lye, iodine, lantern fuel, and antifreeze are among the ingredients most commonly used. Large amounts of these compounds, or the packaging, are red flags.

Occupants behaving secretively and unfriendly.

If they build a fence, black out their windows or install extensive security systems, they might have something to hide. Meth labs may be hidden behind false walls or other building alterations. Alterations that make no sense should be suspect such as: exhaust fans mounted where they have no logical use, bootlegged power supply, rooms that are unexplainably small. Of course, high volume or short duration traffic in and out of the property is the #1 red flag for suspected drug use and sales.

It might seem that a Scottsdale home inspector would never find a home used as a meth lab in such an upscale area, however, even in Scottsdale a home inspection can reveal problems most people associate with lower cost areas of the Valley.