Federal data on meth lab seizures suggest that there are tens of thousands of contaminated residences in the United States. The victims include low-income elderly people whose homes are surreptitiously used by relatives or in-laws to make meth, and landlords whose tenants leave them with a toxic mess.
Some states have tried to fix the problem by requiring cleanup and, at the time of sale, disclosure of the house's history. But the high cost of cleaning -- $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the home, the stringency of the requirements and the degree of contamination -- has left hundreds of properties vacant and quarantined, particularly in Western and Southern states afflicted with meth use.
"The meth lab home problem is only going to grow," said Dawn Turner, who started a Web site, www.methlabhomes.com, after her son lost thousands of dollars when he bought a foreclosed home in Sweetwater, Tenn., that turned out to be contaminated. Because less is known about the history of foreclosed houses, Ms. Turner said, "as foreclosures rise, so will the number of new meth lab home owners."
The former owner had marked "no" on a disclosure form asking whether the house had ever been a meth lab, Ms. Rodriguez said. But because he is now in prison for meth possession, among other things, the Rodriguezes decided there was nothing to gain by suing him. They moved out, throwing away most of their possessions because they could not be cleaned, and are letting the house go into foreclosure.
"It makes you crazy," Ms. Rodriguez said. "Our credit is ruined, we won't be able to buy another house, somebody exposed my kids to meth, and my dog died."
Federal statistics show that the number of clandestine meth labs discovered in the United States rose by 14 percent last year, to 6,783, and has continued to increase, in part because of a crackdown on meth manufacturers in Mexico and in part because of the spread of a new, easier meth-making method known as "shake and bake."
Illnesses Afflict Homes With a Criminal Past
By SHAILA DEWAN and ROBBIE BROWN
Published: July 14, 2009
With meth lab seizures on the rise, attention is being focused on contamination that can cause a variety of health problems.