A meth-testing company has hit back at claims the industry helped drive fears about methamphetamine contamination in homes.
Simon Fleming, director of Meth Xpert which offers meth-testing services, said the industry had worked from Government-released meth standards, such as the Ministry of Health guidelines which were then superseded by the New Zealand Standard last year.
"The industry hasn't beaten it up, it's basically been going off the standard the Government has produced at the time, and we would welcome any review of the standard at the time.
Chief Science Adviser Professor Sir Peter Gluckman has produced a report for Housing Minister Phil Twyford which says there is no evidence that third-hand exposure from methamphetamine smoking causes adverse health effects.
Gluckman said people were more at risk from mould in their home than they were from meth contamination.
"In terms of the housing estate, mould is far more dangerous that meth."
The report has found that remediation in most cases is needed only in homes that have been former clan labs producing the drugs and where meth has been heavily used.
"I can't see the point of testing, full-stop, unless the police or the forensics suspect it has been a place of synthesis," Gluckman told reporters today.
His report says that meth levels that exceed the current standard of 1.5mcg/100cm2 should not signal a health risk and exposure 10 times higher (15mcg/100cm2) would also be unlikely to have any adverse effects.
Twyford said he commissioned the report because of the anxiety about meth contamination and the testing and remediation industry that had grown as a result.
"There has been a widely held perception that the presence of even low levels of meth residue in a house poses a health risk to occupants. As a result, remediation to eliminate contamination has been an extremely costly business for landlords and an upheaval for tenants being evicted at short notice.
NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the panic around exposure to third-hand methamphetamine had grown out of all proportion to the actual risks.
"The message that testing is only warranted in very few cases needs to reach every Kiwi homeowner, landlord, tenant and social housing provider. When this report sinks in, we can expect to see demand for testing to drop right away," he said.
"Since this shameless testing industry took hold, Housing NZ alone has spent $100 million over four years for testing and remediation, evicted countless tenants and had properties sitting vacant."
Fleming doubted the report would put meth-testers out of business.
"It doesn't take away the need to test houses."
Jackie Wright, a public health researcher at Australia's Flinders University, completed a PhD into the health effects from meth labs.
She said there are documented health effects from meth residue at levels as low as 2mcg/100cm2, and levels did often not depend on whether the house was a meth lab or had been smoked in.
Wright said information she contributed to the Gluckman report had been ignored.
"We do see and we've documented health effects in people living in properties with residues in that 2-20mcg/100cm range.
"It's not correct to say [evidence] doesn't exist, it does exist and its been documented," she said.
Wright could not say at what level meth became harmful.
"I can't tell you right now. We're trying to establish that using the research that we're doing. But we're certainly see health effects when we have methamphetamine residue levels anywhere between 2 and 20. In that range we absolutely see health effects, especially in small children."
Wright said if people were concerned about meth contamination, they should still get their homes tested.
"Absolutely, there's no reason why you shouldn't be."
Real estate industry reacts
First National Real Estate chief executive Bob Brereton said there appeared to be no new research in the report and it appeared to be a "regurgitation of pre-existing and incomplete data".
"Who will compensate the owners of the tens of thousands of houses which were deemed to be contaminated prior to this announcement and which have since been remediated at the cost of many millions.
"Who picks up the tab for the loss of sale price, the LIM registrations, the costs of remediation, and the many real estate salespeople who have inadvertently had their careers ruined through the existing levels.
"Who will pay for the many cases which have gone before the Tenancy Tribunal and which have resulted in a successful prosecution where complainants have successfully argued adverse health effects in the living environment," Brereton asked.
The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) called for guidance from the industry's governing body, the Real Estate Authority.
"We know consumers are extremely sensitive about purchasing a property that has been contaminated by meth and the same is true for those looking to rent, so our members need to be able to give members of the public very clear advice now that we have conflicting information in the public domain," said REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell.