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DecontaminationAnthrax-decontamination foam used in meth lab cleanup

Published 27 February 2012

The meth cleanup problem in the United States is a big one; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists thousands of locations where law enforcement agencies have found chemicals or paraphernalia indicating the presence of either clandestine drug laboratories or dumpsites; Sandia’s decontamination foam, originally developed to deal with anthrax, is now also a meth eraser

Sandia’s decontamination foam, developed more than a decade ago and used to decontaminate federal office buildings and mailrooms during the 2001 anthrax attacks, is now being used to decontaminate illegal methamphetamine labs.

Mark Tucker, a chemical engineer in Sandia’s Chemical & Biological Systems Dept. and co-creator of the original decontamination foam, said it renders all types of typical chemical and biological agents harmless.

“For structures contaminated with meth, owners have two choices: demolish it or reclaim it,” said Kevin Irvine, vice president and general manager at EFT Holdings, which licenses the Sandia formulation and sells it under two names, EasyDecon ® DF200, certified against chemical and biological agents, and Crystal Clean, intended for meth cleanup.

A Sandia Lab release reports that the meth cleanup problem is a big one. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Clandestine Meth Lab registry lists thousands of locations in the United States where law enforcement agencies have found chemicals or paraphernalia indicating the presence of either clandestine drug laboratories or dumpsites.

In 2007, EFT released Crystal Clean, a chemically identical formula to EasyDecon DF200, but packaged and marketed specifically for meth cleanup. Sites contaminated with meth are considered crime scenes, but the contamination is chemical rather than biological. The approximately 700 remediation companies that clean up meth lab contamination also do other types of crime scene cleanup because they are accustomed to the sampling and documentation process.

 

“Property owners are often liable for expensive cleanup costs since most insurance companies won’t pay for cleanup related to methamphetamine, viewing damage resulting from meth labs as arising from a criminal act,” Irvine said. “That means that property owners and landlords are often left holding the bag for the cost of remediating a residence or business contaminated as a result of meth cooking.”

According to the Department of Justice, the chemicals used to cook meth and the byproducts from its manufacture, produce toxic fumes, vapors and residues. The report said anyone exposed to these byproducts, especially children, could suffer short- and long-term health problems. Prolonged exposure to meth byproducts may cause cancer; damage the brain, liver, kidney, spleen, and immunologic system; and result in birth defects.

The release quotes Tucker to say that many cleaning methods do not remove methamphetamine and the chemicals used to produce it. Incompletely or improperly cleaned surfaces, such as floors, countertops, and drywall, can remain contaminated for months or even years, even after many cleanups.

Another advantage of this cleanup method, Irvine said, is that some other methods are destructive or use more corrosive substances and the resulting chemical residues are themselves toxic.

The release notes that Sandia’s decontamination formula was developed with funding provided by the DOE and NNSA Chemical and Biological National Security Program (CBNP).