Meth Lab Program - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Meth Lab Program

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The Methamphetamine Laboratory Program at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) works to protect human health by providing information about the hazards of meth exposure to property owners, renters, buyers, and sellers. Additionally, the program provides technical advice on the remediation (cleaning) of clandestine methamphetamine production laboratories (meth labs) and decontamination of property exposed to meth lab activities.

Meth is a powerful central nervous system stimulant and one of a family of drugs known as amphetamines.

Powder meth in foil
Meth Picture
Powdered Meth
Ice Meth Bag

Meth is a man-made drug that can be taken orally (swallowed), inhaled (snorted), smoked or injected. The way meth is taken (route of administration) can influence the rate of addiction and disability caused by its use.

Any way of using meth is extremely dangerous.

Meth may range in color from white to brown; pink to red or in various shades of yellow or green.  Meth can come in pill form, powder or chunks.  Common street names for meth include: "speed, chalk, ice, crystal, crank" and "glass." Crystal meth resembles rock candy, or chunks of ice or crystal.  Meth is extremely addictive. Treatment and recovering may be complicated by physical and mental illness, including prolonged depression.

For more information about meth please see Related Websites.

A meth lab - or clandestine drug lab - is a place where meth is manufactured or "cooked." Materials used in a meth lab are common, readily available items. Other drugs may be manufactured or processed along with meth.

Meth Lab Products

 Meth "recipes" can be obtained through the internet or by associating with other people who "cook" meth. These "recipes" can include the following:

  • Over-the-counter medications that include pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in their contents.
  • Combinations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), acids, bases, metals, solvents and salts.
  • Chemical products and substances that are used interchangeably to produce meth in different forms.

Depending on the process and chemicals used, the final product can be tainted and have unwanted or dangerous effects.

Chemical reactions that occur during meth production depend on the substances used, and are what cause the process to be hazardous. These chemical reactions frequently result in chemical fires, explosions, and the release of toxic gases.

Meth cooking produces 5 to 7 pounds of solid and liquid chemical wastes for each pound of meth made. These byproducts are considered hazardous waste, and can contaminate a building and its contents or the groundwater or soil where they are dumped.

Ways to Recognize a Meth Lab

Labs can exist indoors or outdoors; for example, in houses, apartment buildings, motels, vehicles, wooded areas or fields.

Signs of illegal production or sales of drugs, including meth, are:

  • Frequent visitors at all times of the day or night
  • Occupants appear unemployed, yet make cash purchases or payments
  • Occupants are unfriendly, appear secretive, lie, or display odd or paranoid behavior
  • Covering of windows or other security measures such as signs, fences, cameras
  • Burn pits, stained soil or dead vegetation indicating chemical or waste dumping
  • Strong chemical odors including ammonia or solvent smells at random times

Waste can include:

  • Packaging from pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Empty containers from antifreeze, white gas, ether, starting fluids, freon, lye or drain openers, paint thinner, acetone, alcohol, rock salt or Epsom salt
  • Compressed gas cylinders or camp stove fuel containers
  • Plastic bottles containing a dark, foamy residue
  • Bottles connected with rubber hosing and duct tape
  • Coolers, thermos bottles, or other cold storage containers
  • Masks, coffee filters, or pillow cases stained red or containing white powder

The "Shake and Bake" method of making meth is frequently used in automobiles and other small spaces. The waste from the process often includes common items such as 2-liter soda bottles and is often discarded along the roadside.

Use of meth does not mean meth was made or "cooked." If you are concerned about the risks associated with contamination from meth use, you can find more information at Property Where You Think Meth Use Occurred.

What to Do if You Find a Meth Lab

Anyone who believes they have discovered an illegal drug lab or the site of an abandoned lab should immediately notify local law enforcement (dial 911) and should not enter the area of the suspected lab.

Anyone who happens to enter a lab where meth is in the process of being manufactured should leave immediately– without disturbing the cooking process, chemicals or equipment.

Local law enforcement who make arrests at a "clandestine lab site" must notify the Minnesota Duty Officer (1-800-422-0798), the local city or county public health agency, and child protection with the location of the site. Depending on the severity of contamination, the type of site and the individuals involved, one or more of the following agencies may need to be involved in investigation, evaluation, sampling or remediation of the site.

  • Local: fire department, bomb squads, hazardous materials (Hazmat) teams, city/county attorney, county agriculture, city/county health and licensing authorities, animal control, household hazardous waste, child protection , or other human service agency
  • State: Minnesota Duty Officer (1-800-422-0798), Highway Patrol, Pollution Control Agency, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Department of Agriculture, Health, Natural Resources or Transportation, or the Attorney General
  • Federal: Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Private: environmental cleanup company, poison control center, hospital or clinic

See Cleanup Safety for information about entering a drug lab safely.

Symptoms of Methamphetamine Abuse

Immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine abuse may include:

  • Increased attention and decreased fatigue
  • Increased activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoric feeling and a "rush"
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Convulsions

Long-term (chronic) effects of methamphetamine abuse may include:

  • Anxiety and anxiousness
  • Severe weight loss
  • Changes to brain and central nervous system
  • Damage to heart or other major organs
  • Tremor or uncontrolled motor activity
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood disturbances, including homicidal or suicidal thinking
  • Violent and/or paranoid behavior
  • Amphetamine psychosis

Symptoms of withdrawal may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Intense drug craving

(Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Research Report on Methamphetamine Abuse, 2002)

Health Effects of Meth Lab Exposure

Health effects can result from exposure to meth lab chemicals depend on the lab process and chemicals used, the amounts of chemicals present, total time exposed, and the age and health of the person exposed. Health effects also depend on the way lab chemicals enter the body—breathed in, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.

Children are especially vulnerable to health effects due to their contact with contaminated surfaces and hand to mouth behavior.

Acute Exposure - Occur over a short period of time. 

  • Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, chemical irritation, or burns to skin, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Death could result when exposure is to a highly toxic chemical or the person exposed is especially vulnerable.
  • Non-users can experience these effects during or immediately after "cooking."

Less Severe Exposures - Can improve when chemicals are gone and with access to fresh air

  • Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue or lethargy.
  • Symptoms have occurred in people exposed to active labs, such as law enforcement personnel and other first responders who have entered a drug lab before the site has been cleaned or ventilated.

Chronic Exposures - Exposed over time to chemicals or byproducts in low or high amounts

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Neurological problems
  • Increased risk of cancer
Child Medical Evaluation Protocol

Information For...

Real Estate Agents
What remediation means, how to know whether a property was a meth lab, and disclosure requirements

Necessary contractor qualifications plus their roles and responsibilities

County Officials
Responsibilities of the authority overseeing a meth lab cleanup

Property Owners
Responsibilities of the owner of a property that has been declared a meth lab

What to do if you suspect a meth lab or meth use on your property

What to do if you are concerned about a meth lab or meth use

Law Enforcement
Responsibilities of law enforcement when arrests are made at a "clandestine lab site"

Materials and Resources

Documents pertaining to cleanup as well as links to relevant Minnesota laws and more in-depth reading on the subject of meth and meth labs.

Minnesota Statutes

  • Methamphetamine Laws in Minnesota (PDF)
    It is illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess methamphetamine in Minnesota. It is also illegal to possess methamphetamine precursor drugs with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. This information brief explains the laws on methamphetamine, including crimes and penalties for violations of the law, restrictions on the sale of precursor drugs, and regulations regarding the use and cleanup of property used for manufacturing methamphetamine.
  • Minnesota Statutes, section 152.0275, subdivision 2(c) This requires that any property found to be a clandestine drug site cannot be occupied until it has been remediated according to the Department of Health's clandestine drug lab cleanup guidelines by a qualified contractor.
  • Minnesota Statutes, section 145A.04, subdivision 8  
    This describes the authority to abate a public health nuisance, which will apply to local authorities who have to issue a notice to clean up a former meth lab.
  • Minnesota Statutes, section 513.55
    This requires that during a real estate transaction a property owner must disclose facts pertaining to adverse physical condition of the property which includes the presence of a former meth lab.
  • Minnesota Statutes, section 609.378
    This regards the neglect or endangerment of children including having a child present around controlled substances and activities like selling or manufacturing controlled substances.

Further Resources

  • Methamphetamine Laws in Minnesota (PDF) - May 2008 Information Brief from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department. (Written by Jeffrey Diebel, Legislative Analyst and Dariel Weaver, Research Assistant); A summary of laws pertaining to methamphetamine including property and cleanup of meth labs.
  • 2005 Meth Legislation Summary (PDF) Prepared by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office
Updated Tuesday, 16-Aug-2022 08:07:18 CDT