Meth Labs

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery September 30, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF


Meth Labs — What to Look for, What to Do

The illegal manufacture and sale of methamphetamine (meth) in rural areas is of special concern.

• Discovery of labs is less likely in rural, unpopulated areas.
• Ingredients used are common in rural areas, in agricultural supply stores, and on farms themselves.
• Police patrols are less likely.
• Dangers to the community include explosions, exposure to toxic materials, environmental contamination, and increased illegal drug traffic.

Where to Look

Meth labs can be found in:

• Private homes
• Hotels/motels
• Cars and trailers
• Barns/sheds/outbuildings
• Businesses
• Apartments
• Warehouses
• Wooded areas
• Abandoned buildings
• Campgrounds
• Storage facilities

What to Look For

The production of one pound of meth produces five to six pounds of toxic waste. These waste products and other trash characteristic of a meth lab include:

• Antifreeze containers
• Camp stove or lantern fuel cans
• Propane cylinders
• Hot plates, camp stoves, or portable cooking stoves
• Red-stained coffee filters
• Duct tape
• Alcohol
• Ether
• Lye
• Drain cleaner
• Benzene
• Toluene or paint thinner
• Freon
• Acetone
• Chloroform
• Starting fluid
• Anhydrous ammonia
• Gas line antifreeze
• Gas cans
• Unleaded gasoline
• Phenyl-2-propane
• Phenylacetone
• Phenylpropanolamine
• Iodine crystals, liquid iodine, or black iodine
• Red phosphorous
• Wooden matches
• Cat litter
• Hydrochloric (muriatic) acid
• Sulfuric (battery) acid
• Epsom salts
• Lithium batteries
• Sodium metal
• Measuring cups
• Turkey basters
• Over-the-counter cold medications (ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, cold tablets)
• Bronchodialators
• Energy boosters or sports drink bottles
• Rock salt
• Diet pills
• Flares
• Glass jars
• Rubber tubing
• Glass cooking dishes
• Buckets
• Laboratory beakers
• Ice chests
• Aluminum foil
• Rubber gloves
• Thermometers

In addition to the trash mentioned above, other hallmarks of a meth lab include:

• Homes or buildings with windows blacked out or covered up
• Frequent visitors who stay a short time, especially at night
• Strong chemical odors
• Large amounts of trash and junk in yards
• Burning trash
• Aggressive dogs
• Many clear glass containers taken into the home
• Neglected and unschooled children
• People smoking only outside buildings
• People who seem unemployed yet pay bills in cash
• People who seen unfriendly, secretive, and paranoid
• No mail or newspaper delivery
• Little furniture inside
• Fences, alarm systems, and “No Trespassing” signs

What to Do

Recognizing and reporting meth labs is one of the best ways concerned citizens can help law enforcement agencies eliminate them from the community. If you think you know the location of a meth lab or have found trash you think could be from a meth lab, leave the area, go to a safe location, call 9-1-1 immediately and make a report to your local police.

Also, keep an up-to-date farm supply inventory, and always report the suspected theft of agricultural chemicals and materials.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.