Meth tester already knew 'contaminated' houses had little health impact

  • 30/05/2018

A meth tester says he's "not really surprised" by a new report which suggests methamphetamine residue on household surfaces from smoking has no impact on health.

"I already believed it before I saw this report," Neville Peterson from Meth Testing in Hawkes Bay told RadioLIVE's First at 5.

As a result of the Government report, 240 state homes with low levels of meth will be released within weeks for people to live in. It means Housing New Zealand may have pointlessly emptied several hundred state houses and wasted a good chunk of $100m on cleaning houses in which meth was smoked but not manufactured.

Mr Peterson says there have been "a lot of times" when he's thought the situation was overblown.

"I've seen some pretty sad stuff, people getting kicked out of their houses. Even when I go back to do my retests a lot of the times I don't even wear any gear. Because I know that it's going to be okay. I'm not going to get sick."

The report found while there's "no evidence" residue left by typical meth smoking can impact health, houses where meth manufacture has been taking place involve "additional risks". That's because additional contaminants may be present in a meth lab. The report found a former meth lab with low levels of methamphetamine is likely to have low levels of other substances.

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) will now use a new standard of 15 micrograms of meth detected per 100 square centimetres after cleaning, expecting to save $30m a year in remediation and testing. That's 10 times the current limit of 1.5 micrograms. It used to be 0.5 micrograms after cleaning.

But Drug Smart managing director Sam Murdoch told RadioLIVE he doesn't agree with the research, which appears to be nothing new.

"It seems to be a regurgitation of pre-existing and incomplete data which has somehow been reconstructed into a recommendation to Government."

Mr Murdoch says a lot of meth tests are done between tenancies to pinpoint when meth contamination happens in a house, noting he "absolutely" would still wear protective clothing, but mainly to avoid cross contamination.

"As we're moving through the house if we're touching the walls or doors or anything like that we don't want that coming on to our clothing, especially keeping in mind that generally we're going to multiple properties a day."

He doesn't agree that there have been no documented short term risks of meth exposure.

"A lot of people we speak to speak of headaches or nausea or feeling a bit sick, itchy eyes, skin irritations. Things like that."

A community housing group is riding high on the report's findings. Community Housing Aotearoa's Scott Figenshow says now the focus now needs to be on more pressing issues.

"We've got more kids in hospital due to mould in houses than actually from poison reporting related to meth.

"The thing that this report lets us do now is actually set some much more common sense regulation that can be then put into law through the upcoming Residential Tenancies Act."

Mr Figenshow hopes the report will be used to help create regulations.