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    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    High up above and deep down under

    Default How to avoid buying a P lab

    How to avoid buying a P lab

    4:00 AM Sunday Jan 10, 2010 Kiwis looking for their dream home to buy or rent have a new worry to confront: was the house ever used as a P lab?
    Police have busted more than 450 P labs over the past three years - including 137 last year - and experts say buyers and landlords need to be aware of the toxic dangers.
    Clandestine methamphetamine labs leave behind a host of toxic chemicals that can poison a property long after the lab has been dismantled, but home buyers and renters are often none-the-wiser until they move in.
    Experts say regulations need to be toughened to inform residents of the history of a P lab.
    Mike Sabin, former police detective and founder of drug education group MethCon, receives a couple of calls a week from people who have moved into a former P lab.
    "More often than not their health takes a plummet within a few weeks of moving in," said Sabin. "Usually they start noticing insomnia, a general feeling of lethargy, sometimes stinging eyes, sore throats, headaches."
    MethCon runs sessions on how to identify P labs for a range of people including Housing New Zealand tenancy managers, midwives, Plunket nurses and rural GPs. The group has educated thousands since it was established four years ago.
    Signs to look for included chemical odours, blacked-out windows, discarded drums and containers, frequent visitors and extensive security.
    But once the lab had gone, the signs were not so obvious.
    "Often it's a rental accommodation or used to be a rental accommodation," said Sabin. "Often you find there's been paint work done in the laundry and there are brown spots leaching back out of the paint work. They are classic signs of people doing a clean-up and on-selling the house or re-tenanting it."
    The real estate and motel industries were not as proactive as they should be when it came to identifying P labs, said Sabin, but the presence of one could quickly make your property worthless.
    "If you do discover a lab in your house, you're going to lose money pretty quickly, especially if it becomes known that your house was a meth lab," said Sabin. He advised doing some homework before moving in. "If it's a great house going cheap, what's wrong with it? Talk to the neighbours, see what they know. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."
    Once it has been established a home has been used as a P lab, an extensive decontamination process is required - which can cost from between $5000 to $35,000. But there is no national standard for what constitutes a satisfactory clean-up.
    If the police have been involved, they call in the ESR (Environmental Science & Research) response team of forensic scientists who remove chemicals and conduct tests.
    Police alert the local council, who can order the property to be tested and make a Cleansing Order under section 41 of the Health Act 1956. There are a number of P lab cleaning companies but no standard to meet before a house is deemed safe.
    "There needs to be more robust protocols," Sabin said.
    Some councils note former P labs on their LIM (Land Information Memorandum) reports, but there is no legal requirement to do so.
    The Ministry of Health has been working on P lab clean-up guidelines for several years but their release has been delayed.
    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx


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