P-lab Contaminated Houses Ignored | The Jackal

3 Sep 2011

P-lab Contaminated Houses Ignored

Those who are unfortunate enough to live in a house that has previously been used to manufacture the methamphetamine drug known as pure (P), have an uphill battle on their hands.

P lab contaminated houses are a serious problem as the residual chemicals are highly toxic and exposure can cause illnesses related to immunodeficiency and serious diseases like cancer. Therefore you'd think the government was getting serious about the problem, unfortunately not...

All responsibility falls on those living in the contaminated property. Firstly they have to associate the initial headaches, nausea and skin conditions to a thing that is often invisible. Even when the association is made, they have to convince authorities to test for toxic residual; if the Police are not involved, this process alone can take years.

Figures show that one third of people who are suspicious of the house they live in are proven correct. Even when a house tests positive, Regional Councils simply list it as a property with higher probability of contamination, leaving all relevant details aside. To make matters worse, the limited information is not easily accessible for anybody who believes the house they reside in is contaminated.

People renting contaminated houses have the option of moving on. But the property owner must take it on the chin or hide the fact that the house is no longer suitable for living in. Even when testing shows a house is contaminated, there are no laws to say the property owner can't simply rent it out to the next unsuspecting tenant.

Perhaps the property owner might even sell to an unsuspecting purchaser. The costs involved can be huge, especially if insurers decline cover or authorities condemn the house.

Once it has been established a home has been used as a P lab, an extensive decontamination process is required - which can cost from between $5000 to $35,000. But there is no national standard for what constitutes a satisfactory clean-up.

There is no open database of what houses have been checked and tested positive. That means contamination from the manufacture of P is quietly swept under the carpet, to protect property owners and insurers from potential losses, and this suits the drug industry just fine.

It’s not only chance involved in who is residing in these contaminated houses either. The drug dealers et al actively choose people to reside in houses previously used to manufacture P. The more average Jo Bloggs these people appear the better. That’s because the next knock at the door is usually the Police.

The transient nature of P labs means the number of contaminated houses is growing. Even if a doctor recognises the causes of their illnesses, which is usually not the case, those who are affected have little chance at any recompense.

What we need is an open and easily accessible database of houses that have been tested for contamination and a dedicated task force to start testing more houses. Without these things, innocent people will continue to bear many of the costs of New Zealand's P epidemic, and that's simply unfair.