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2005 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 10, No. 2
April 2005

How to Recognize a Meth Lab

Signs of a Meth Lab
Although not in and of themselves conclusive evidence, the following could signal the presence of a meth lab.

  • Unusual, strong odors (like cat urine, ether, ammonia, acetone, or other chemicals) coming from sheds, outbuildings, other structures, fields, orchards, campsites, or especially vehicles (older model cars, vans) etc.
  • Possession of unusual materials such as large amounts of over-the-counter allergy/cold/diet medications (containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine), or large quantities of solvents such as Acetone, Coleman Fuel, Toluene, etc.
  • Discarded items such as ephedrine bottles, coffee filters with oddly-colored stains, lithium batteries, antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, propane tanks.
  • The mixing of unusual chemicals in a house, garage, or barn, or the possession of chemical glassware by persons not involved in the chemical industry.
  • Heavy traffic during late night hours.
  • Residences with operating fans in windows in cold weather, or blacked-out windows.
  • Renters who pay their landlords in cash.

If You Suspect a Meth Lab
Seventy-five percent of meth labs found in North Carolina have been “stumbled upon” (NCDSS, 2005). If you suspect a meth lab take these steps:

  • Remain calm. Give yourself time to think.
  • Do NOT approach suspects. They are often armed and may be dangerous.
  • Do NOT enter the lab area. Discarded containers, waste, and other materials remaining from a meth lab can be highly toxic and dangerous. Do not try to clean up the area. Evidence should remain undisturbed for investigation by law enforcement.
  • If you are in the lab already, find an excuse to leave immediately. Never use touch or smell to try to identify unknown substances.
  • Keep a safe distance. Hazardous materials may ignite or the fumes may overcome you (Mason, 2004; NCDSS, 2005).
  • Promptly notify local law enforcement and follow all NCDSS policies regarding meth labs.

Source: Mason, 2004; Shaw, 2004

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