• Mike Lawson

Methamphetamine Testing ... What Does it all Mean?

Testing property for methamphetamine is a process which is increasingly being undertaken. Below are some frequently asked questions about the process, and why it is done.

Why test for methamphetamine?

The underlying reason for testing properties, vehicles and accommodation for methamphetamine is to ensure the health and wellbeing of those who live in, or use them.

What are the effects of living in or using methamphetamine contaminated properties?

Contamination caused by methamphetamine manufacture is documented to cause more serious health implications than are caused by the use of the drug.

Chemicals used to manufacture the drug, including solvents, acids, and alkalis, among other chemicals, are reported to have cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects on people.

Despite a higher risk from the manufacture of the drug, both the production and use of methamphetamine can have negative health implications, according to the recent New Zealand standards 8510 (NZS8510).

"Methamphetamine production and use can contaminate properties, and expose people, particularly young children, to potential health risks," it states.

The reality is that NZS8510's maximum acceptable level of methamphetamine, 1.5 µg | 100 cm2, is targeted at young children, the elderly, the ill and other vulnerable people.

A healthy adult is more likely to be able to withstand living in a property with methamphetamine contamination than those whom the new levels have been set to protect.

Having said that, anecdotal evidence observed by ZeroStone since beginning to test for the drug in 2016 suggests that some people are still affected by even low levels of methamphetamine.

An accommodation unit we tested had been used by two sets of people, both of whom had complained of feeling ill after staying in the unit.

Subsequent testing established that this property was at the level of 0.5 µg | 100 cm2, well below the new level of 1.5 µg | 100 cm2.

Do we have to test for methamphetamine in my rental property?

No. But it would pay to carefully read your insurance policy or to take advice from your insurance company regarding their coverage for methamphetamine contamination, and what they require to mitigate the risk. It is also worthwhile seeking advice from Tenancy New Zealand about their best practice regarding methamphetamine contamination, and how it affects landlords.

Should we test for methamphetamine in our rental property?

Of course, ZeroStone absolutely recommends that your property is tested between tenants, and periodically during any long term rental. This helps to protect the health and safety of your tenants, and also gives you a baseline reading between tenants. By having a baseline, you and your insurance company are able to allocate any new contamination to a particular tenant.

Should we test the property we're looking to buy (or indeed sell) for methamphetamine?

It makes sense, as it does for building reports and valuations, to have any property you're looking to purchase tested for methamphetamine contamination. The test results will be able to contribute to your decision making during the conditional stage of the contract.

If you are a vendor, it also make sense to have the house tested. It means that you are in charge of the results and if there are any surprises, you will be able to deal with them prior to your property being placed on the market. You will also have a methamphetamine contamination report and certificate of analysis available for potential purchasers.

How does the testing work?

ZeroStone essentially offers two types of testing; Both are scientific analyses by Analytica Laboratories, but the first is essentially a screening test, and the second is analysis of individual rooms or sites at a property or vehicle. Screening is the cheaper option and ideal if you don't know, or are sure that there will not be any methamphetamine contamination problem.

The individual analysis is more expensive and recommended if you think there may be a problem, and if you have had a screening test that has shown levels of concern.

With the screening tests, you will get a "methamphetamine not detected" result, "methamphetamine detected but not at levels in excess of SNZ 8510 recommended levels", or "methamphetamine detected at levels potentially greater than SNZ 8510 levels, and further testing is recommended", result. This testing will not identify individual levels for individual rooms.

The individual testing will return individual levels for each room or area tested. The results can be interpreted and advice given on whether remediation is required.

There is a 10 site composite option that can be used initially as a screening test, but if levels of concern are detected, the individual samples can be analysed for an extra fee per sample. This saves a second visit for individual testing. It is recommended if you think there may be a problem at your property/site.

You've tested on varnish? Doesn't that test positive for methamphetamine contamination?

No. Varnished surfaces (and others) retain methamphetamine traces better than other more porous surfaces and is expected to provide more robust levels of methamphetamine contamination levels. The contamination is still there on other surfaces but is absorbed and it is difficult to get a true indication of methamphetamine contamination levels. Varnished surfaces and other areas are specifically identified as preferred areas for sampling for screening.

Can I just paint or wallpaper over surfaces I think are contaminated?

ZeroStone do not recommend this course of action. Redecorating may temporarily mask methamphetamine contamination, but over time the contamination is likely to seep through. ZeroStone will note in their reports that there has been redecorations and that it may temporarily mask contamination.

Preparation of the surfaces and their redecoration may also be detrimental to the health of those doing the work.

Methamphetamine contaminated building materials are hazardous waste and there may be special requirements for their disposal.

'Oh my goodness ... our property is contaminated by methamphetamine!' What happens now?

Some ZeroStone clients have had success in lowering, or indeed removing, very low levels of methamphetamine contamination with 2-3 passes of sugar soaping all surfaces and frequent changes of cleaning cloths.

Consideration should also be given to professional cleaning of carpets, drapes and curtains. However, professional methamphetamine remediators are normally your best option if rooms are in excess of 1.5 µg | 100 cm2.

Post remediation individual testing is required to ensure the rooms/areas are at safe levels.

Do you clean and remediate methamphetamine contaminated properties?

Absolutely not. All testing companies ought to be completely independent of cleaning/remediation companies. ZeroStone has no financial or business interest in cleaning/remediation companies. We are happy to refer you to a remediation company, but receive nothing in return for that.

We do that through our experience of their expertise and quality of their work. You are not obliged to use them for remediation. Likewise, your remediation company ought not dictate what testing company does their post remediation testing.

What do ZeroStone think of the "self test" kits available?

We do not use self testing kits, preferring instead to have our samples tested at Analytica Laboratories in Hamilton. We find their service to be professional, fast and reliable.

The "self test" kits may be alright to give an indication of concern, but having an independent tester and a reliable scientific laboratory result ought to satisfy requirements in any testing situation.

Can we just talk to you for advice?

Absolutely. It is a very confusing area and people are often unsure about the advice they receive. It is also a completely foreign area for most people and is a shock to the system when they discover their property is of concern.

ZeroStone is happy to discuss testing options and answer any questions you may have. We think it is important that you understand your options and are comfortable with them. Visit our Methamphetamine Testing page on the website, or call Mike on 027 201 1049, anytime to discuss.

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