Sharing the Street with Drug Operators

You may have heard about indoor air quality being a health issue. But I doubt you factored the fumes from an illegal drug operation into family's well-being.

But maybe you should. More than 50,000 homes across Canada operate as methamphetamine labs, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). That nice-looking house in your suburban neighbourhood could be harbouring harmful chemicals used to cook the "crystal meth" as it's known on the streets.

Sadly, Canada is a leading producer/exporter of crystal meth, and since it is a lucrative business, we can expect the number of meth lab homes in our communities to be on the rise.

A Sick Household

What does it mean if your home used to be a meth lab?

It means that the harmful chemicals have permeated the drywall, carpets, insulation and air ducts - so that humans and pets can suffer long-term respiratory problems, skin and eye irritation and burns, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and learning disabilities in kids.

Because of the recession, the risk of getting saddled with a meth lab can be even high - with homebuyers seeking "good deals." In the US, thousands of foreclosures have included meth labs that went on the market.

The cost of getting meth fumes out of a home - in the tens of thousands of dollars at least - will fall on you, the current homeowner.

Mad as Hell & Not Going to Take it Anymore

The cost and health risk was just too much for one American grandmother to take; she blogs at to try and generate grassroots support for her mission to get consumer protection laws around meth lab homes.

Protecting her identify, this woman started the site when her son moved his family unknowingly into a former meth lab, which broke him financially for its cleanup. (Fortunately the neighbours told him about the house's former life, so he could protect his young children's health.)

At this point, you may be wondering, 'how the heck can I be sure that my home hasn't been used as a meth lab?!"

Clues to Detecting a Meth Lab, Former or Current

According to Citizens Against Narcotic Drug Operations (CAN-DO Canada), the signs of a meth lab include:

  • Drapes that are never opened
  • Foil or papers on the windows
  • Unfriendly, secretive occupants
  • Strong odours (acetone paint thinner, or a cat urine/ammonia smell) coming from the house, outbuildings or garbage cans
  • Lighter fluid, drain cleaner, brake fluid, red-stained coffee filters left regularly in the garbage
  • Occupants putting garbage for pickup into a neighbour's collection area

Full Disclosure of Prior Use

Your realtor needs to tell you all about a property's use a meth lab, if he/she is privy to that information - according to CREA rules, specifically "... anything that could materially affect the sale price or influence a buyer's decision to buy it.... Intentionally withholding information about a property when selling it can have serious legal consequences."

Ideally, all realtors would note the home as a meth lab right in the property listing, whether it is online or in print - at the very least, a comment in the listing saying to contact the listing agent for more information about a condition.

Some tell-tale signs when you're viewing unoccupied homes that may indicate the property used to be a meth lab:

  • Fire detectors that are taped off or removed
  • Blue discoloration on fire extinguishers and valves of propane tanks
  • Yellow discoloration on showers, drains, walls, sinks
  • Itchy throat, Burning in your eyes, metallic taste in your mouth, or breathing problems when you're in the house
  • Strong odours (same as described in the list above)

Don't Think it Stops at Meth...

And then there are "grow houses," aka "grow opps," sprouting up in nice neighbourhoods across Canada. The marijuana business also does a steady trade, and the risks in living near a grow house include:

  • The likelihood of a fire in a grow-op dwelling being up to 40 times greater than in a typical residence
  • Structural damage to a house as a result of high humidity and mould growth resulting from water and chemicals used in the weed-growing process

When you're looking into the safety of a neighbourhood in your home buying decision, these are scary crimes that - literally - permeate your buying decision and subsequent quality of life.

What do you think is the solution for stopping the use of residential homes as pot grow houses and meth labs?

Leave your comments below.

1 Comment

  1. methlabhomes 02/13/2011 at 9:31 PM

    The solution to stopping the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine - which has contaminated well over a million homes here in the U.S. - is to ban pseudoephedrine. Mexico is the only state, that I know of, that has done that which creates a problem for the U.S. Mexican meth makers now come to America not only to buy pseudoephedrine, but to rent homes that they use as meth labs and distribution points.

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