Earlier this year, Tyler and Elisha Hessel were settling into their new house in Missouri and anticipating their first child, due in January 2020. Then, they received some worrying news from their doctors.
As explained on their GoFundMe page, a routine pregnancy examination revealed that Elisha had tested positive for amphetamines. Considering neither couple had ever touched the drug, this left a huge amount of confusion and concern. A lengthy process of elimination later revealed their home was riddled with unsafe levels of methamphetamine contamination. Only after dozens of phone calls and meetings with lawyers did the couple find out their newly purchased house was a former meth lab.
While this might sound like an unfortunate but uncommon story from the extended Breaking Bad universe, it's a situation that arises more often than you might think. So, here's everything you need to know about the weird world of meth labs becoming family homes.
How Long Can Meth Linger Around?
A study by Flinders University in Australia, published this week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that traces of the drug can lurk in a former meth lab for over five years. Using wipe samples, they were able to detect traces of methamphetamine on multiple surfaces and objects around the house, even though the building hadn’t been used for cooking drugs for at least five years.
Study author Dr Kirstin Ross explained a statement: "Although the time since the cooking had taken place was significant, the levels of contamination were extremely high in both household items that were part of the house when cooking was taking place (blinds, carpets, walls, etc.) and also in articles brought to the house post-cooking (rugs, toys, beds, etc)."
"The most significant mass of methamphetamine was reported to be within the blinds," they added. "These are plastic blinds that were present when manufacture was suspected to have been undertaken. This is consistent with observations from other properties where higher levels of methamphetamine are present in materials such as PVC, polyurethane, and stained and varnished timbers."
What's The Health Risk?
Another study from 2015 looked at the potential health effects of this scenario by analyzing a family of five, including three children aged 7 to 11 years, who lived in a home in rural Australia that was previously a clandestine meth lab. All family members reported some mild effects on their health, such as sore eyes, rashes, dizziness, blurred vision, and persistent coughs. Many family members even noted symptoms like excess energy, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
The highest concentrations of meth were found in the hair of their youngest child, a 7-year-old boy. Most concerning of all, he appeared to display health issues that were not present before living in the home, including asthma-like symptoms, fearfulness, nightmares, irritability, and aloofness. The symptoms were so severe, doctors said he was displaying signs of ADHD.