Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mike Butler: Scientist says P-risk over-hyped

The P-contamination test does not point to a health risk and property owners are spending megabucks on unnecessary testing and remediation, a toxicologist confirmed this week. The advice from toxicologist Nick Kim is that testing for P, a street name for methamphetamine, does not necessarily show any health risk. (1)

Dr Kim is a senior lecturer in environmental chemistry at Massey University.

Two years ago, a request under the Official Information Act showed no recorded illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths resulting from methamphetamine contamination or fires from P labs. (See

In an interview on Fair Go this week, Dr Kim pointed out that the accepted New Zealand benchmark for remediation, 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres, was 24 times lower than "the lowest level that could you could plausibly have a health risk". (2)

This benchmark was based on levels in a meth lab, not on houses where smoking had occurred.

This means if a test for 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres turns up positive, a landlord is wasting time and money cleaning where there is no plausible health risk.

That guideline clean-up level is tiny – Fair Go compared it to cutting a grain of salt into a thousand pieces, dissolving one of those pieces in a drop of water, and spraying that drop over an area the size of half an envelope.

When it dries out, the residue is the same amount of methamphetamine that should trigger a clean-up.

Paranoia has spread in the absence of robust guidelines and the scammers are raking it in.

Companies are charging hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to test for traces of methamphetamine and tens of thousands to clean it up – tearing out gib, replacing insulation and curtains, tossing out perfectly good stoves.

The Ministry of Health has admitted there is no guidance on whether P at those trace levels actually poses a risk to human health. (3)

The failure of one government department to state accurately the level of harm caused by either a clan lab or by tenants smoking P in a rental property has led to stupid decisions by other government departments.

About 400 Housing NZ properties around the country were declared uninhabitable as a result of alleged P contamination and were in various stages of testing and remediation, according to HNZ's chief operating officer Paul Commons.

Dr Kim said he peer reviewed the testing guidelines six years ago when concern was just emerging over the explosion of P labs and councils wanted guidance on testing. "Somehow it's slipped sideways whereas it's now being used to test for cases where there's no clear evidence of a laboratory”, he said. (4)

1. Meth residues not the big worry, Stuff, June 15, 2016.
2. The P properties. Fair Go, June 15, 2016.
3. The P properties. Fair Go, June 15, 2016.
4. Meth residues not the big worry, Stuff, June 15, 2016.


Anonymous said...

I never believed that using methamphetamines in a house would contaminate it and I am pleased to see this vindicated. It defied all logic. This is a massive failure by Government agencies which has wasted vast amounts of money and seen many good houses remain empty in the middle of a housing shortage. I have been appalled by ugly comments on some blogs, blaming whole classes of our society for what turns out to be the ultimate fear-mongering nonsense. I'm surprised at the lack to attention it has received in sections of the media. The Herald has not even backtracked on its earlier scare headline "P contamination crisis could rival leaky homes disaster" March 17th. Maybe someone should now look at the figures around accidents and the lowering of blood-alcohol driving levels in the light of the increase in the road toll this year.

paul scott said...

The danger with Amphetamine , is the product itself, and the possibility of fire during production.
When the home is cleared out, the deep stains in the wall and ceiling can be painted out with enamel paint.
Look Mum no gloves, no nonsense. Also furnishings may need cleaning.
The homes which the cooks use, are rented, so they have no care for those places. Cooks are usually also addicts
If some person can do a deal with the Government, we buy these homes, I paint them and place them on the market. Two birds with one stone.
A further danger of speed is the tendency of the cooks to start a person off with free samples, because at first there are no cravings, no terrible consequences, and no overtly bizarre behaviour.
Amphetamine is addictive, and ferociously so, after a period of use. The dose rate increases and the subject becomes psychotic.
Amazingly over in Thailand they intend to take this stuff [ ya ba ] off the prohibited list.
This shows lack of knowledge, and the trendy idea that all drugs can be safely liberalised.
Amphetamine is a blight in New Zealand as Heroin is in New England, USA.

Bob Culver said...

It is incredible how questions so obvious to many citizens escape official scrutiny. The P risk is clearly over hyped. The number of alive and thriving cooks and smokers suggested modest risk. The Housing Corp alone would seem to have had incentive to seriously question. A problem today is that employment is very insecure for many, so work based on making and enforcing rules, and carrying out the certain work created is very attractive. And, like car crashes, it all boosts GDP, the prime national objective.
The cost to landlords of P tainting is far far worse than total loss as by fire. The risk largely explains why so many houses in Auckland remain empty to appreciate in safety.

Anonymous said...

So I am in the unfortunate position of finding the tenant in my property has been smoking meth. The highest reading in the bathroom is ~2.5. There are a couple of other rooms with readings between 0.5-1.
Currently the cleaning process will cost $15k and include the removal of oven, stove, cupboard shelving, carpet in one room, wall paper, wall lining (gib) in one room, and the bathroom basin/vanity. To me is seems excessive when clearly it was a minor smoking issue that caused this.
I am happy to remediate the house (clean + rebuild cost + loss of rental income will be $25k-$40k im guessing) to meet the guidelines. But it seems crazy that i will then be penalised ongoing if my property is now flagged as a meth property.
Does anyone have a generic view on best remediation here?
Is it possible that if the tenants only smoked meth there, after a few month from when they were last there, the readings would slowly reduce to zero? So if I get a re-test in a few month I may have a completely clean house?
Or should I follow the recommendations from the Meth Testing business and the Meth Cleaning business to spend $25k+ to fix a 'contaminated' property?