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Recognition and Safe Handling of Meth Lab Waste. Colleen Brisnehan Environmental Protection Specialist Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. What is Methamphetamine?. Powerful, highly toxic, addictive drug Illegally “cooked” in makeshift labs

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Recognition and Safe Handling of Meth Lab Waste

Colleen Brisnehan

Environmental Protection Specialist

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

what is methamphetamine
What is Methamphetamine?
  • Powerful, highly toxic, addictive drug
  • Illegally “cooked” in makeshift labs
  • Can be found in the form of pills, capsules, powder or chunks
  • Can be smoked, snorted, injected or eaten
  • a.k.a. crank, speed, crystal or ice
how is meth produced
How is Meth Produced?
  • Red Phosphorous - ephedrine reduction with hydriodic acid, or by combining red phosphorous with iodine and water
  • Anhydrous Ammonia - ephedrine reduction with anhydrous ammonia and lithium or sodium metal
  • Phenyl-2-Propanone (P2P) – older, more complicated process using phenyl-2-propenane and methylamine
chemicals related to meth production
Chemicals Related to Meth Production
  • Ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (cold tablets)
  • Acetone, toluene, alcohol or paint thinner
  • Iodine
  • Red phosphorous or phosphoric acid
  • Hydriodic acid
  • Naphtha, freon (camp stove fuel)
  • Ethyl ether (starter fluid)
more chemicals
More Chemicals
  • Lithium metal (from batteries)
  • Sodium metal
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid)
  • Sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • P2P Method: mercuric chloride

lead acetate

equipment used in meth production
Equipment Used in Meth Production
  • Pyrex or Corning dishes
  • Plastic or rubber tubing
  • Rubber gloves
  • Glass containers (all types)
  • Funnels
  • Propane tanks
  • Coffee filters
  • Hot plates
by products and contaminants related to meth production
By-products and Contaminants Related to Meth Production
  • Iodine/iodinated compounds
  • Phosphine gas
  • Yellow or white phosphorous (from overheating)
  • Hydriodic acid gas
  • Hydrogen chloride gas
  • Phosphoric acid gas
  • Meth residues
hazards of meth lab waste
Hazards of Meth Lab Waste
  • Iodine Stained Items
    • Iodine sublimes when heated
    • Upper respiratory and skin irritant, causing chest tightness, skin burns, rashes
    • IDLH 2ppm
  • Death Bags
    • Agitation will release phosphine gas
    • Severe pulmonary irritant, causing chest tightness, breathing problems, nausea, abdominal pain
    • IDLH 50ppm
hazards of meth lab waste cont
Hazards of Meth Lab Waste (cont.)
  • Acids and Bases
    • Skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation or burns
  • Solvents
    • Often flammable
    • Skin eye and respiratory irritants
    • Toxicity and exposure concerns vary by product
  • Anhydrous Ammonia
    • Containers under pressure can be explosive
    • Upper respiratory and skin irritant, contact with

liquid causes caustic burns and frostbite

meth lab remediation waste

Meth Lab Remediation Waste

Reason to Be Concerned?

national jewish research
National Jewish Research
  • Sampling during a controlled cooks
    • Vapor levels of phosphine, iodine and hydrogen chloride exceeded OSHA exposure levels at various times during cooks
    • High levels of airborne meth detected
    • Meth present on horizontal and vertical surfaces a significant distance from the cook area
  • Sampling conducted at inactive meth labs
    • High concentrations of meth detected
    • Acidic residues on surfaces and in porous material
  • Report available at:
meth lab remediation waste30
Meth Lab Remediation Waste
  • Contents of Structure
    • Contaminated personal property
    • Porous materials such as carpets and drapes
    • Cabinets, appliances, fixtures, furniture
  • Construction/Demo Debris
    • Dry wall, paneling
    • Flooring
    • Ceiling tiles
    • Insulation
disposal requirements
Disposal Requirements
  • Meth lab remediation waste may be disposed of as solid waste.
  • Notification to landfill must be provided for meth contaminated material.
  • Asbestos and lead paint abatement and disposal requirements must be followed.
  • Wash water can be containerized for offsite disposal or discharged to sanitary sewer with approval from POTW
special precautions
Special Precautions
  • Eliminate or limit contact - use equipment to handle if possible
  • Contaminated material is often wrapped in poly to limit cross contamination
  • Wear dermal protection if must handle material not wrapped in poly
  • Practice good hygiene - wash hands after handling contaminated material
  • Cover as soon as practical
additional information
Additional Information

Colleen Brisnehan

(303) 692-3357

Cleanup Regulation