Keep The American Dream Of Owning Your Own Home From Turning Into A Nightmare

July 12, 2007 -- Posted at 9:52 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Methamphetamine use is saturating rural America.  The ingredients are readily available and the manufacturing process is getting easier. We often hear meth can be made just about anywhere including inside your own home.

All too often we hear stories of explosions after meth making goes wrong, but you don't have to have a fire in your home after making meth, to cause the American dream of owning your own home to turn into a nightmare.

Century 21 realtor Joe Banks says first time home buyers inquire about everything from the school district the house is located in to flood plains, but increasingly, home buyers are faced with other dangers.

The dangers include the potentially deadly residuals from the production of meth that have seeped into the walls and floor.

Shirley Louie is an Epidemiologist for the Arkansas Department of Health.

"The best way to find out exactly where the meth was made and how much of it and for how long is to go to law enforcement and say 'ok I would like to have a copy of that report', often times that information is there," said Louie.

The use of meth is widespread across the United States, but it's most concentrated in rural areas.

It can be made just about anywhere including inside someone's house, using a wide variety of easy to get chemicals.

Louie says it's the property owner's responsibility to decontaminate the home before it changes ownership.

There are some indicators inside a home that should signal some red flags including a strong chemical odor, signs of chemical burns and spills and don't forget to pay extra attention to the yard too.

"Often times the chemicals are handled inappropriately and they are stored inappropriately.  Therefore, the property where they've done the manufacturing often times is contaminated because they have taken, theoretically, what are the empty cans and thrown them into the yard," said Louie.

Louie says if you have any suspicions at all, it's a good idea to hire a contractor who knows exactly where and what to look for to determine whether or not meth was actually cooked in the house.

"If there is no indication that meth has been cooked in the building, it could very well be that meth has been used and that's why you have a residual. That's why you have to be careful not to jump to conclusions and make the assumption that just because meth is there therefore meth was cooked in the building," said Louie.

Louie says if you are at all suspicious of the home, check with the police to see if they have any record of a meth lab at that home.

That's public information, unless the property is involved in an open investigation.

Contractors do have standards for testing for meth residuals in a home.  Based on the amount they find, they can determine if the home is too dangerous for someone to live in.

To learn more, click on the link to the Arkansas Department of Health's website.