As our country's methamphetamine problem continues to grow, so too does the number of homes contaminated by the drug.

Meth inspections are now in big demand, so what exactly does it involve?

Rouxleen Burger is an inspector for Bay of Plenty company MethClear which inspects 50-100 properties each week around the North Island.

She says the first step is to survey a property from the outside.


"I'll walk around the property and look at the drains to look for discolouration which indicates chemical exposure. Further, I'd look for security cameras and any signs of dead vegetation that might indicate chemical spillage."

The inspector then enters the property to conduct an internal inspection.

"We'd look for smoke alarms and if they've been removed, any chemical standing around or if the carpets have burn stains and marks. Once it is deemed safe, we can continue with the testing."

Samples are taken from the house so lab experts can determine the level of methamphetamine found on the property.

"We use an internationally recognised sampling procedure, the NIOSH 911. This procedure involves using a methanol dampened gauze, which is ideal to extract residues from surfaces while also not interfering with later laboratory analysis," said Burger.

"The first level would be presence, anything the lab can detect really which is anything above 0.025mg per 100 square centimetres. The second would be contamination, which would be anything above 1.5mg per 100 square centimetres. Last we have what we consider toxicity, which is anything above 15mg."

Around 10% of samples taken show contamination.

Multiple academic bodies have said the contamination level, which sits at 1.5mg per 100 square centimetres, is too low. They believe this has caused an over-reaction with more homes being decontaminated than needed.

Burger says high costs, dubious testing methods and scare tactics have harmed the public's perception of meth testing.

"A lot of the cases we get, we can actually refer them to DIY cleaning guidelines, so it will be more cost effective. It is a small percentage of cases that has a high toxicity that needs to be referred to a decontamination company."

Despite disagreement over the level, once contamination is found, it costs between $5,000-$10,000 to decontaminate. However, costs sometimes far exceed this level.

Potential health risks of living in a home with meth residue include skin irritation, respiratory concerns, insomnia, dizziness and fatigue. Children can suffer developmental issues.

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