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The Skanner It's Easy
By The Skanner News
Published: 22 February 2006

It is possible to easily determine the locations of known contaminated drug labs in King County neighborhoods and find out if those labs have been cleaned up.

Public Health-Seattle & King County has a Web site — www.metrokc.gov/ health/methlabs — that pinpoints illegal drug labs. Visitors can view a lab's status on a printable list or on the interactive iMap system.

"Methamphetamine labs are a scourge on our neighborhoods, and this new capability makes it much easier for residents to find out whether a drug lab was identified and cleaned up," said King County Executive Ron Sims.
"By making this information easily available we are simplifying the steps it takes to keep tabs on any contaminated drug lab in King County."

After law enforcement uncovers an illegal drug lab, public health officials prohibit people from occupying contaminated sites until the lab is properly decontaminated, said Dorothy Teeter, interim director and health officer for Public Health-Seattle & King County.

"Neighbors, real estate agents and other interested parties now have information about the location and status of these labs with the click of a button."

Public health's illegal drug lab team assesses contamination and oversees the cleanup and decontamination at illegal drug labs after the police conduct the initial seizure. The chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine are toxic and frequently explosive. Corrosive chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia and hydrochloric acid, as well as solvents like acetone and toluene are used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

During the cooking process, these chemicals may cover walls, carpets and other surfaces with dangerous levels of contamination, rendering the location contaminated. When these substances are inhaled, ingested or touched they can cause injury, particularly to children.

Public health assesses and oversees the cleanup of approximately 100 meth labs per year, depending on the number referred to the agency by law enforcement.

Meth labs can be set up anywhere, including vacant houses, motel rooms, vehicles, motor homes, campgrounds, storage sheds or outbuildings. Warning signs of a meth lab in a neighborhood include:

• A strong odor of solvents;

• Blacked-out windows;

• Increased activity, particularly at night;

• Iodine-stained fixtures; and

• Excess trash.

Typically, a meth lab contains pressurized tanks filled with anhydrous ammonia or hydrochloric acid; various hoses and tubes; and chemical bottles, glassware and pill packets or bottles. Other common ingredients include lithium batteries, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, paint thinner and starter fluid.

Those suspecting that drugs have been manufactured in a building should not enter it; call 9-1-1 instead Inhaling, ingesting or having skin contact with the chemicals can cause burns and respiratory problems. The materials are often explosive and can explode on contact with air or water.

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