Your Home's History: Are You Living in a Former Meth Lab?

Materials to make meth
Posted at 7:45 AM, Oct 14, 2014
and last updated 2016-07-04 12:06:20-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- Sick kids. Thousands of dollars in cleanup costs. A house you may be forced to abandon. That's the horrifying reality for thousands of Americans who unwittingly buy homes or rent apartments contaminated with toxic meth residue.

In this Angie's List report, how to uncover your home's history before moving in.

Jennifer Nugent and her husband spent thousands of dollars remodeling this home before moving in with their three children last year.

A few months later, they were constantly sick - coughing, diarrhea and vomiting - but they couldn't figure out why.. until a neighbor told them the former owner was a meth user. She immediately had her home tested and results confirmed high levels of contamination.

"I feel like I put them in harm's way more so than I ever could have just staying where we were. I regret moving so bad," she said.

When making or smoking meth, nothing escapes contamination.

A string of toxic chemicals saturates carpets, walls, ductwork, ceilings and furniture, forcing cleanup crews to throw away just about everything before thoroughly cleaning all surfaces.

Exposure to even small amounts of those poisons can cause serious health issues, especially in small children.

Authorities busted more than 11,000 meth labs across the country last year, but say that represents only a fraction of the number of homes where meth is made or used.

"The police, they're trying to bust them all, but not everybody's busted. Sort of like this house. It wasn't busted. It's not on a list," said certified meth inspector Rick Held.

Adds Angie Hicks of Angie's List: "Meth labs can be found anywhere. This is not a rural home problem. You can find them in suburban lovely homes to million dollar penthouses. So, you want to be aware of the dangers of a home that's had a meth lab in it and be sure that you're doing all of your research before buying."

Angie's List says disclosure regulations and decontamination laws vary by state, so make sure you do your research.

If you suspect meth residue in your home, you can purchase a test kit for around $50. Decontamination jobs can cost up to $10,000.

The Nugents aren't sure if they'll ever return to the house. They've sued the seller and the home's listing agent for damages. That lawsuit is pending.