Ohio laws fail to guarantee meth homes are cleaned up; new residents notified

CLEVELAND - An exclusive NewsChannel5 investigation has uncovered hundreds of Ohio homes listed as former meth labs may still contain toxic chemicals.

(Meth Mayhem: Signs of a meth house and more http://bit.ly/QtmA2K )

Ohio has no rules requiring remediation of a home after police discover meth or meth making chemicals inside. There are also no Ohio laws requiring that residents receive notification that the drug was once manufactured inside a home being bought, sold or rented.

When asked how many homes are contaminated that residents are unaware of, Summit County Health Director Terry Tuttle responded, "who knows?"

"There really aren't any laws when it comes to dealing with meth," he said.

Ohio law enforcement agencies have reported the discovery of 918 meth labs to the Drug Enforcement Agency since 2001. That number is likely much higher because law enforcement agencies are not required to report their meth labs busts.

(Click here to look at the list of meth lab locations in Ohio: http://www.justice.gov/dea/clan-lab/oh.pdf)

Tuttle encourage landlords and homeowners to properly clean their homes after a meth lab busts. He sends letters requesting that they clean their property and notify the health department when the cleaning is completed.

"If they don't do that, right now, we don't really have a law or a recourse to force them to, " he explained.

Out of the 342 meth lab locations reported by Summit County to the Drug Enforcement Agency since 2001, Tuttle can only guarantee 17 homes have been properly cleaned and deemed free of meth and the dangerous chemicals used to make the drug.

Tuttle said remediation is required because meth can seep into any porous surface in a home, including carpet, curtains and walls.

"I've read reports where meth has been found behind the drywall of homes and I'm not just talking about the volatile chemicals that have evaporated through the air, I'm talking about meth itself behind drywall."

Tuttle said no studies have been conducted on the long-term effects of low level exposure to meth, but there is little doubt the short-term effects can be lethal.

In March, 17-month-old Patrick Lerch died after ingesting meth. His mother's boyfriend was cooking the drug in their Akron home.

Tuttle said meth use can also cause cancer and damage the liver, lungs, kidneys, heart and skin.

Ohio may soon create laws to regulate and remediate meth lab homes. Ohio Republican senators Frank LaRose and Bill Beagle have proposed legislation that would create a remediation fund and require residents be notified of a home's history and condemn former meth lab homes until there's proof they have been properly cleaned.

"The idea is to define standards for meth house cleanup and then put in place a mechanism to make sure it's getting done," explained LaRose, who introduced the proposed law in May. He expects it to be voted on in 2013.

Meth has becoming a growing problem in Ohio. A spokesperson for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation said law enforcement officers had discovered 579 meth labs so far this year. Agents expect that number to grow by year's end as they continue to gather data from law enforcement agencies.

Methamphetamine, more commonly called meth, is a highly addictive drug made by mixing together legal ingredients, including the drug pseudoephedrine and Coleman Lantern fuel.

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