The hidden effect of WA’s drug use uncovered in the home

Steve Ebbs, from Meth Screen, screens for meth in a kitchen. Picture: David Baylis d480678
Steve Ebbs, from Meth Screen, screens for meth in a kitchen. Picture: David Baylis d480678

LIKE smoking, meth or ice users are not the only people whose health and livelihoods are detrimentally affected by the drug.

Australian families living in properties where meth has been smoked or manufactured are suffering from health issues, with children and pregnant women the most vulnerable.

The severe health risks and damage caused by meth residue have forced families across the country to move from their contaminated homes, often with nowhere else to go.

According to property testing company Meth Screen, meth contamination was invisible, had no smell and was a “very real issue” where 20 per cent of properties contaminated were linked to labs and 80 per cent to meth users.

Managing director Ryan Matthews said Meth Screen had recently tested two properties in Perth with “severe” amounts of meth residue, including a home in Tuart Hill that tested 50 times over the safe level.

The worst affected areas were the kitchen, dining room and laundry.

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Another property in Bunbury tested 25 times over the safe level with the highest readings in the kitchen, toilet and master bedroom.

A police spokeswoman said WA continued to experience a high use of meth, with the most clandestine drug labs found in the south metropolitan area and the State’s South West from 2015 to 2017.

The worst affected property in Australia that Meth Screen technicians tested was in Victoria.

Mr Matthews said it had meth residue 600 times above the guideline level and that the tenant had been living in the property unaware for four years.

A Department of Health spokesman said unsafe levels of residue potentially put occupants of the property at risk with toddlers, children and pregnant women most vulnerable.

“Health effects may start with disturbances in behaviour and mental wellbeing but in higher and/or prolonged exposure there can be physiological and pathological impacts,” he said.

Mr Matthews added that short-term health effects included headaches, nausea, burning skin, dizziness, breathing difficulty, sleeplessness and behavioural issues.

“Long term prolonged exposure to meth residue also increases the risk of damage to kidneys and liver and birth defects,” he said.

With the latest national wastewater study estimated that more than eight tonnes of meth was consumed annually in Australia, and Perth the second city to use the drug most per capita, Mr Matthews said it was essential to have properties tested.

“There are a few tell-tale signs, burn pits in the garden, discolouration of the flooring in the bathroom, particularly around the toilet and missing light bulbs,” he said.

“It’s essential post tenancy that meth screening is carried out on all rental properties to guarantee the safety of the house or unit for future tenants, while protecting the owner’s asset.”

In addition to houses, units and apartments, cars; trucks; caravans; sheds and garages can also be tested by Meth Screen’s swab system with test results turned around in a few days.

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