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New standards for the testing of meth-contaminated properties

By Jonathan Aquilina - April 2017

In this article, we provide an update on the development of new standards for the testing and treatment of properties contaminated by methamphetamine (“meth”).

With the number of houses contaminated by meth reported to be on the rise both in Waikato and throughout New Zealand, the public awareness and demand for meth testing is also increasing steadily.

The production of meth creates a toxic by-product; the residue of which, once absorbed into a property’s surfaces, carries a range of health risks.  Carcinogenic to all who inhale it, these residues have been shown to be particularly dangerous to young children.  Besides the negative health effects, the owner of a contaminated house can also face a decrease in property value, loss of rental income during the process of decontamination, and in extreme cases, the costs of significant renovation or even demolition.

To avoid the risk of purchasing a meth-contaminated property, prospective purchasers should consider including a specific meth testing condition in their agreement for sale and purchase.  Landlords should also be aware that they could be failing their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to provide a “reasonable state of cleanliness” if they knowingly rent out a contaminated property.  Landlords should consider testing their rental property for meth contamination between tenancies.  There are a growing number of New Zealand businesses that provide meth testing and decontamination services.  

The Ministry of Health in 2010 published the Guidelines for the Remediation of Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratory Sites.  This set out a number of relevant points in regards to meth testing.  Notably:

  • Any room occupied by a child under the age of 16 should be sampled;
  • No fewer than five samples should be taken inside the building;
  • The acceptable level of meth to occupy a property is 0.5micrograms/100cm2; and
  • Professional testers must operate independently of commercial clean-up companies, and should use the recognised standard NIOSH 9111 sampling method.

Standards New Zealand is currently engaged in creating the new standard NZS 8510: Testing and decontamination of methamphetamine-contaminated properties.  This is expected to be published late in June 2017, and should provide a consistent and effective approach to managing the testing and decontamination of affected properties and the treatment of their contents.

The proposed new standard will be particularly relevant for meth testing and decontamination companies, laboratories, and health and safety regulators as it will set out a clear framework for the procedures for decontamination and remediation of properties, methods of disposal of materials and for assessing risks to health and safety.  It will also be of interest to property owners as the standard should support and encourage auditing processes.  Ultimately, compliance with the proposed new standard should promote confidence in the effectiveness of meth testing, decontamination and remediation measures.   

Jonathan is an Associate in our Commercial Team and can be contacted on 07 958 7460.