Physical Symptoms of a Meth Lab in Your Apartment Building

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Some telltale signs could alert you to illegal activities of your neighbor.
Some telltale signs could alert you to illegal activities of your neighbor. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The production of methamphetamine requires the use of several volatile ingredients that produce some telltale smells and physical symptoms in those nearby. In 2009, The New York Times reported that subsequent occupants of former meth labs have fallen ill with a variety of ailments. If you suspect a meth lab is operating in your apartment building or neighborhood, there's some characteristics to look for before introducing the authorities.

What You Might See

The physical signs that a meth lab might be operating in your apartment complex are many. Constant traffic in and out of a dwelling, as well as excessive trash strewn about, could indicate drug activity, although these signs alone do not point to illegal activities. Look also for missing fire extinguishers or propane tanks, or blue rings that appear on these types of vessels, which are commonly used to store meth-producing chemicals. See if the inhabitants of the dwelling religiously smoke outside or if they're constantly bringing in clear containers or an excessive amount of garage-related chemicals.

What You Might Smell

The smell most often associated with meth labs is an ammonia stench, although this smell could also accompany a home where cat boxes are seldom cleaned. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services maintains a list of chemicals needed to produce the average batch of methamphetamine, many with distinctive odors like paint thinners, ether, fuel and noxious chemicals. Review the list to see if you see -- or smell -- a lot of these materials in the garbage.

What You Might Feel

The physical symptoms of having a meth lab close by are well-documented. Not only is the risk of dying from an explosion or fire more prevalent with so many caustic chemicals in close proximity, regularly inhaling the range of chemicals needed to make meth can produce symptoms like migraines, kidney problems, burning eyes, a ticklish throat, respiratory ailments and even cancer, after prolonged exposure. A New York Times article in 2009 points the finger at a home's former meth producers as the reason why the current inhabitants were getting sick.

Neighborhood Problems

The number of meth lab incidents and arrests made in 2010, as reported by the Drug Enforcement Agency, was 10,247 -- down from 18,091 in 2004. The DEA's website contains a state-by-state breakdown of the prevalence of these incidents. To prevent any public health concerns at an apartment that has previously been used as a meth lab, have an industrial cleanup company test the dwelling to ensure no harmful chemicals are left behind to make new residents sick.

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