Certified Decontamination

Honesty   Respect   Quality


3431 Fenchurch Rd.

West Jordan, Utah 84084


Meth and Meth Labs

About forty years ago, a transition began with the people selling illegal amphetamines in the United States; it became popular to manufacture one of the drugs they were selling. They began manufacturing methamphetamine using the “Amalgam Method” also known as the “Phenol-2-Propanone Method” and "Biker Method". The Biker Method name came from its popularity with motorcycle clubs. As the trend increased in popularity, two other methods of manufacturing took the place of the Amalgam method;; the "Birch Method", sometimes called the "Nazi Method" and the "Red Phosphorus Method" also known as the "Red-P Method" and "H-I Method". The Nazi and Red-P methods yield what meth users consider a better quality product. Other methods exist but are not used as commonly as these three. Below you will find details about some of the ingredients and hazards regarding these three methods of meth manufacturing. 

The Biker Method

The Biker Method includes the use of phenol-2-propanone, methylamine, sodium hydroxide and mercuric chloride. Lead acetate may also be used. Phenol-2-propanone is a volatile organic compound and evaporates at room temperatures. Phenol-2-propanone is normally gone prior to the start of decontamination. Anhydrous (without water) methylamine is a gas and will dissipate to outdoor air if given a route to do so. Aqueous (mixed with water) methylamine will off-gas to the air as the water evaporates. Where a substantial spill of methylamine has occurred in a dwelling, opening windows indiscriminately could expose neighbors to this hazardous material.

Aqueous methylamine can pose contamination issues when absorbed into building materials and soil where drying is difficult. Methylamine will not volatilize (off-gas) from water. Washing with non-reactant solutions may result in methylamnine being absorbed deeper into materials. Testing for methylamine should be performed after decontamination. Methylamine hydrochloride may be used in the Biker Method as a variation. Methylamine hydrochloride is a different compound than methylamine. Methylamine hydrochloride is a white powder that can be cleaned up without the worries associated with methylamine.

Sodium hydroxide is found in powder or liquid form. Spilled liquid usually dries prior to cleanup. Sodium hydroxide is used in many household products such as laundry soap, dish detergent, dishwasher detergent, oven cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, drain cleaner, air freshener, shaving cream, after shave lotion, face cream, baby lotion, deodorant, cologne, perfume, toothpaste, hair dye, shampoo and cream rinse. Sodium hydroxide powder and residue is decontaminated by simply cleaning it up.

Mercuric chloride, a white powder, can be hazardous where it is ingested by swallowing or breathing and contact can damage skin. Organic mercury can vaporize at any temperature down to almost -40 deg. Fahrenheit and can be detected onsite using a mercury vapor analyzer. Mercuric chloride is inorganic mercury and does not readily vaporize. Mercuric chloride cannot be detected with a mercury vapor analyzer except when dust is in the air. Where the Biker Method was used or where mercuric chloride is suspected, wipe samples should be collected and analyzed prior to beginning decontamination. Unless wipe sampling proves otherwise, the presence of mercuric chloride throughout the property should be assumed.

Mercuric chloride powder and dry residues may be removed by HEPA vacuuming, damp-rag collection and washing. All dust throughout the property should be collected and handled as mercury contamination unless testing confirms specific areas are not contaminated. All residues collected must be securely packaged and discarded in accordance with local laws. No mercury residues or rinsate should be discarded in the landfill or in the drain to the waste treatment plant or septic system. Post-decontamination tests should include wipe sampling and air sampling.

Lead acetate is a white crystal powder that mixes with water. Lquid products may also contain hydrogen peroxide. The acetic acid (vinegar) component is not typically hazardous but may cause hazardous reactions with other chemicals. Lead is very hazardous. Lead poisoning can cause headache, abdominal and leg pain (cramps), irritability, weakness, difficulty reasoning, personality changes, seizures, coma and death. Lead-based paint may interfere with wipe testing of painted surfaces. Collecting and testing dust may be preferred. No lead residues or rinsate should be discarded in the drain to the waste treatment plant or septic system.  

The Nazi Method

Ingredients for the Nazi Method include ephedrine/pseudoephedrine (“ephedrine”), anhydrous (without water) ammonia, lithium, sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are toxic to young children especially babies below two years of age. Ephedrine is cleaned up by vacuuming, damp-cloth wiping and washing. Anhydrous ammonia is a gas a dissipates quickly. Anhydrous ammonia is usually gone prior to the start of decontamination. Lithium releases flammable gas when exposed to water. Lithium is very reactive and will likely cause tissue damage internally and externally upon contact. Hazardous waste disposal is not required for lithium.

Sulfuric acid can create fire or an explosion upon contacting some materials. It creates heat upon contact with water. Fumes from open containers and spills can cause tissue damage to the respiratory system. Sulfuric acid is a carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical). Contact with skin and other tissues cause immediate damage. Open containers of concentrated sulfuric acid can gain volume by absorbing moisture from the air. Already full containers can overflow. Open containers and spilled sulfuric acid can release a sulfer-oxygen gas that can harm human tissue. Spilled sulfuric acid should be deactivated by a chemical reaction prior to cleanup. Sodium hydroxide issues were discussed in the Biker Method information above.

The Red-P Method

Manufacturing methamphetamine using the Red-P Method can leave iodine and red phosphorus residues. The iodine accumulates on indoor surfaces from vapors released during storage and manufacturing. Accumulations of iodine and red phosphorous are also found where meth formula liquid was spilled or splashed or where the lab experienced a vessel burst. To understand what a vessel burst is, picture placing an unopened can of tomato soup on a hot stove. Eventually pressure in the can becomes too much to be contained and the can bursts throwing soup everywhere. Reaction vessels are heated and methamphetamine collected in steam condensers. Occasionally, interior pressure in a reaction vessel gets too high and the vessel bursts like the can of soup.

Heat and moisture cause iodine and red phosphorus to off-gas toxins into the air. The average family of four can add two or three gallons of moisture to the indoor every day so all dwellings, even dwellings in dry climates, can provide environments effected by iodine and red phosphorus. Elemental iodine that off-gasses from iodine residue in former meth labs can cause skin, eye, throat and lung irritation, skin rash, headache, dizziness, delirium, stupor, pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluids in the lungs), infant and neonatal death due to goiter, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis and cancer.

When red phosphorus comes in contact with moisture, including high humidity, it releases a volatile species of phosphorus called phosphine. Phosphine is a restricted-use pesticide. The 5-year-old and 14-month old girls killed in 2012 in Utah, the 4-year-old girl killed in 2007 in Texas, and the 5-year-old girl killed in 2002 in South Dakota died from phosphine generated from phosphorus pesticide devices. When a meth cook is found dead next to his “chemistry set,” the death is usually from phosphine generated from cooking meth.

Chronic (long-term) exposure to low concentrations (0.5 to 1 ppm) of phosphine can cause anemia, bronchitis, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, double vision, difficulty walking, difficulty speaking, liver damage, reactive airway disfunction syndrome, toothache, deterioration of the jaw bone and spontaneous bone fractures. Acute exposures to high concentrations (greater than 2ppm) can cause tissue damage, cough, pulmonary edema (fluids accumulated in lungs), dizziness, convulsions, coma, psychosis (out of touch with reality) and death. Hazards exist when these materials are "dumped" outdoors near a home because gasses can migrate through the soil.

Iodine, and phosphorus cannot be decontaminated by encapsulation such as painting or installing building materials over them. They will off-gas into the living area. Washing can cause residues to be absorbed deeper into building materials. Contaminated materials can be removed or they can be decontaminated using decontaminating formulations that react with iodine and red phosphorus to create compounds that do not off-gas.

The Hazards of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine can be hazardous in certain situations but is not always hazardous. It is not one of the extremely hazardous residues of methamphetamine manufacturing. The people most susceptible to ill effects from methamphetamine are babies below 2 years of age. Two studies, one by the State of Colorado in 2005 and another by the State of California in 2006, provided excellent assessments of methamphetamine hazards in dwellings. Both studies developed a risk-based advisory standard for meth residues on indoor surfaces.

The Colorado advisory standard is 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimeters and the California advisory standard is 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. Both studies used the same model; a six-month-old baby, wearing only a diaper, staying the entire day on a meth-contaminated carpet. Both studies sought to determine what test result of a 100 square centimeter area indicates an exposure to the baby that would not be sufficient to cause any physiological effect. In both studies, the total amount was divided by a safety factor of 300 which is consistent with safety factors used in toxicology.

Some states use a non-health-based standard such as 0.1 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. It is reasonable to believe all laboratories analyzing samples for methamphetamine can accurately detect down to 0.1 micrograms. I have heard the claim that 0.1 is a reasonable standard because medical professionals do not know the chronic (long-term) effects of exposures to trace amounts of methamphetamine. The claim is not true. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved methamphetamine as a prescription for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or ADHD).

To receive authorization from the FDA, a manufacturer must submit a mountain of paperwork, including research details of the effects, hazards and fates of the respective compounds. Many other studies have been conducted regarding the effects, hazards and fate of methamphetamine in the human body. A common mistake made by non-medical people is to expect exposures to traces of methamphetamine to produce the same medical consequences experienced by meth addicts. The amount of a drug ingested and the method of ingesting it make a big difference on the effects.

Perhaps comparing methamphetamine to another drug we are more familiar with can illustrate this point better. The chemical formula for methamphetamine is C10H15N, ten atoms of carbon, fifteen atoms of hydrogen and one atom of nitrogen. If you remove one atom of hydrogen and add one atom of nitrogen in the formula, you have nicotine, C10H14N2. Methamphetamine and nicotine are similar compounds. Nicotine, the stimulant in tobacco products, is toxic in high doses and can cause death. Low doses can be tolerated although chronic use is addicting and may eventually cause medical conditions.

Trace amounts of nicotine have no harmful effect. If you have eaten potato, cauliflower, green tomato or eggplant, you have eaten nicotine. If you drank green or black tea, you drank nicotine. The first time a person smokes a cigarette (or tries to) they feel dizzy. The first time you ate one of these foods, you probably didn’t get dizzy. I have met people who love cauliflower but I have never met a person addicted to them. We can make the same comparison with methamphetamine. High doses can be toxic. Lower doses can be tolerated but like nicotine, are habit-forming. Trace amounts have no harmful effect.

The purpose of the health-based standards is to ensure no person is exposed to methamphetamine sufficient to harm them. In regards to methamphetamine, where the testing of a dwelling finds residues at or below the health-based standard, good science tells us the dwelling is safe for habitation.


© Copyright, 2013, Certified Decontamination, Michael L. Rowzee, West Jordan Utah. All rights reserved. Contact the owner for written authorization to copy.