Decontamination/First RespondersWhat are the signs that a child is being exposed to meth/drug lab chemicals?
Teachers, day care staff, and other individuals who work with or care for children exposed to chemicals associated with meth labs may, or may not, observe a variety of symptoms, including:
- Watery eyes
- Discharge from the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain, including burning
- Skin irritation and redness
- Mild to severe burns on the skin
- Sneezing and coughing
- Difficult and labored breathing, shortness of breath
- Congestion of the voice box
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Moderate to severe headache
- Rapid heart rate
- Dark colored urine
- Decrease in mental status
- Yellow jaundice
- Extreme irritability
- Severe neglect
If you believe a child you know is being exposed to meth lab chemicals, or if a child tells you that drug-making is occurring in their home, please call 911 immediately and tell law enforcement personnel what you know.
The Importance of Decontamination
The methamphetamine manufacturing process involves highly toxic and explosive chemicals that release hazardous vapors and residue. The residue settles inside the structure, continuing to contaminate the premises until it is thoroughly decontaminated. Anyone entering a meth lab may be exposed to contaminants through respiratory or skin contact with the chemical vapors and/or chemical residue if safety precautions are not carefully followed, and may carry the contaminants on their skin, clothing and shoes spreading the contamination to their car, office and home.
Medical doctors believe that exposure to the toxic chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine can cause short and long-term health effects that vary depending on the amount and route of exposure and the chemicals involved. Doctors and scientists involved in the National DEC Alliance agree that children in meth labs should be decontaminated for their safety and, while they agree that there is much research that needs to be done concerning the precise health impacts, there is widespread support for taking precautionary measures that will protect children from the attendant harms of clandestine drug labs. There is active discussion on the nuances of this important topic and work is being done to determine the best protocol for the decontamination of children at meth labs.
First Responders - Personal Protective Equipment
To be safe it's critical to know what the "Exposure Routes of Entry" are when dealing with a Methamphetamine lab. Knowing the dangers will help determine the type of equipment needed when responding to a call. The routes of entry are:
- Inhalation - Most Common
- Absorption - No Warning
- Ingestion - Poor Hygiene
- Contact - Skin and Eyes
- Puncture - Chemical Injection
Depending on the situation, the types of protective equipment and their descriptions are as follows:
Level A Description: Best Respiratory and skin equipment. Positive pressure SCBA, fully encapsulated chemical protective suit. For unknown skin absorptive material and high splash hazards.
Level B Description: High level respiratory protection but less for skin protection. Positive pressure SCBA, hooded chemical resistive clothing. For areas less than 19.5% Oxygen, unidentified gas and vapor and low skin hazard.
Level C Description: Modest skin protection. Full or half hooded APR, hooded chemical resistive clothing. For no skin hazards, no unknowns and sufficient oxygen.
Level D Description: Ordinary work uniform with minimal protection. Coveralls, proper boots.