As ice’s stranglehold in Australia continues to grow in strength, there’s a new kind of victim showing up to GP surgeries and hospitals – the people who unwittingly live in a home that once accommodated a meth lab.
“People are getting sick because of the invisible toxins from ice. This is a big problem in Australia, more widespread than we realise. We should be as aware of this as we are the effects of asbestos and lead paint,” says Flinders University academic and lecturer Dr Jackie Wright, who has completed a PhD on the health effects of clandestine meth labs.
She and other people working in this new area arising from the growth in the drug's manufacture in Australia, speak to The Australian Women’s Weekly for our November issue, out this Thursday.
“It’s such a toxic and powerful drug that the residue seeps into any porous surface – carpet, curtains, plaster, even the timber frames of homes," says Dr Wright.
“The impact is profound, from headaches and sleep deprivation to respiratory problems, asthma and eye complaints. Some homes may have to be demolished because they can’t be decontaminated.
“We are seeing more and more people who have moved into homes without knowing they were once used as a drug lab become sick. Even people who don’t use ice themselves but share homes with ice users are becoming sick.”
Last year, the Australian Crime Commission reported that police busted 744 clandestine meth labs across Australia. NSW Police say that they see at least six to 10 homes demolished as a result of contamination each year, while Queensland holds the dubious honour of being the country’s leader in methamphetamine production, with more meth labs uncovered than any other state.
One of the people at the front line of this new fall-out from the ice crisis is Josh Marsden, the managing director of Meth Lab Cleaners Australia. He told us that “soon cleaning up meth labs will be as common as pest control”.
“There’s no way I’d buy a house or rent a house in Australia without testing for meth first,” he said.
To read The Australian Women’s Weekly's investigation of this issue grab the November edition out this Thursday.