Flinders University - Peer Reviewed Study Published 20th August 2020
Kindly reproduced with permission from Dr Wright.
Abstract: The clandestine manufacture and use of methamphetamine can result in contamination of residential properties. It is understood that this contamination remains in homes for a significant period, however there are a lack of data available to understand the health effects of exposure to environmental methamphetamine contamination (third-hand exposure). Our study collected information from 63 individuals in 25 separate case studies where the subjects had unwittingly suffered third-hand exposure to methamphetamine from former manufacture, use, or both. Data included environmental contamination data, information on subjects’ health effects, and evidence of exposure using hair analysis. This study identified a range of health effects that occur from residing in these properties, including behavioural effects or issues, sleep issues, respiratory effects, skin and eye effects, and headaches. Methamphetamine was detected in hair samples from some individuals, including children. The exposures and concomitant reported health effects covered a wide range of environmental methamphetamine levels in the properties, including low levels close to the current Australian guideline of 0.5 μg methamphetamine/100 cm.
There were no discernible differences between health effects from living in properties contaminated from former manufacture or use. This study demonstrates that residing in these properties can represent a serious public health risk.
Upon Hair Follicle analysis; "...external contamination of the hair occurred when living in the home, potentially via deposition from the air and direct contact of the hair with hands and surfaces, such as couches and bedding." Meaning simply residing in contamination results in absorption of the chemicals from both respiration, and in-direct and direct skin contact with surfaces.
Upon analysis of personal items; "Where personal possessions were analysed in the case studies included in this study, this data indicated the presence of methamphetamine contamination of possessions brought into the property, supporting the potential for contaminant mobility and external contamination to occur..." Meaning that personal possessions, once contaminated, should not be taken to another premises as they will transfer that contamination from one property to another, and continue to affect the health of those in contact with the items.
Upon documentation and analysis of health effects; "In relation to health effects, 6 participants did not report any health effects that specifically related to the time spent in the property. All other participants reported some health effects that were either unique to the time spent living in the property or were exacerbated by living in the property, regardless of the duration of exposure in the property. Of these participants, 67% provided doctors or school reports supporting the health effects or changes in health effects while residing in the property. Where health effects were identified for most participants, these resolved within weeks to months of moving out of the property.
One participant, an adolescent, developed a more chronic liver issue that was unchanged after moving out. The adverse health effects identified have been grouped based on common effects reported: skin irritation or rashes; eye irritation (sore or watering eyes); respiratory effects (persistent cough, asthma or asthma-like symptoms); immune effects (persistent and recurring respiratory infections); sleep issues (difficulty sleeping and unusual dreams); headaches; and behavioural effects (fatigue or tiredness; increased aggression or irritability; depression, anxiety or moodiness; vagueness or not thinking clearly; memory issues). Less commonly reported health effects included dental issues, particularly the delayed development of teeth in young children; speech delay in children; weight loss; appetite loss; loss of hair; having extra or excess energy; visual changes; dizziness and nausea; and increased blood pressure and tachycardia. It is noted that two of the participants involved in this study reported health effects that were so severe that an ambulance was called or hospitalisation was required. This related to headaches in an adult and asthma in a child. In addition, one adult with significant cognitive effects that only occurred while living in the contaminated property had attempted suicide."
This new research discredits and "debunks" the 2018 report from the PMCSA (The Gluckman Report) which stated "Toxicity assessments and exposure dose models used to establish standards for remediation of former meth labs (which are used in the NZS 8510:2017 to guide remediation, and do not distinguish between manufacture and use) have deliberately adopted conservative assumptions, with large (~300-fold) safety margins built in. These margins reflect data gaps and uncertainties in the calculations and are considered precautionary. Taken together, these factors indicate that methamphetamine levels that exceed the NZS 8510:2017 clean-up standard of 1.5 μg/100 cm2 should not be regarded as signalling a health risk. Indeed, exposure to methamphetamine levels below 15 μg/100 cm2 would be unlikely to give rise to any adverse effects. This level still incorporates a 30-fold safety buffer on a conservative estimate of risk.”
To their credit, the PMCSA report concludes "There is currently no evidence (in either humans or animals) that the levels typically resulting from third-hand exposure to methamphetamine smoking residues on household surfaces can elicit an adverse health effect. We note, however, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of an effect. There is a clear need for more research and a co- ordinated inter-agency effort to build up a robust dataset."
There is NOW a robust dataset that proves, without any doubt, that persons residing in contaminated properties from BOTH methamphetamine use and manufacture see "no discernible difference" meaning both use and manufacture of meth affect the occupants health equally.
Links to the 25 Case Studies are below:
Twenty-five opportunistic case studies were identified and included in this study between 2013 and 2019. As these case studies were opportunistic, each case study was different, particularly in relation to the housing and exposure situations. The following provides a brief summary of the exposure situation, specifically the length and level of contamination. Click the cases below to read in detail regarding the individual statistics, health effects and, where obtained, hair follicle sampling results.