Australian families are unknowingly living in former meth labs.
Australian families are unknowingly living in former meth labs.

Australians naively living in former meth labs

Innocent Australian families who unknowingly move into homes that were formerly used as illegal drug labs are at risk of getting seriously ill, with dangerous traces of methamphetamine even found in soft toys.

Academics at Flinders University said occupants could be suffering from significant inhalation and skin exposure as the drug moves from gyprock walls and furnishings into the air, triggering alarming contamination levels throughout the property.

The research team took air samples from homes known to be contaminated with meth and discovered not only was it found in the air, but the drug was also detected in items such as soft toys.

Dr Jackie Wright, associate professors Stewart Walker and Kirstin Ross were the brains behind the study, which was published in the Springer Nature Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

Dr Wright said the study further highlighted the risk for people living in contaminated homes.

She explained surface wipes usually used during similar tests didn't measure inhalation exposure.

"Our study indicates inhalation exposure has the potential to result in significant intakes of methamphetamine, adding to more well-known risks such as dermal absorption and ingestion," she said.

"Australian guidelines currently allow for the assessment of methamphetamine in contaminated properties, or properties contaminated with other illicit drugs, but ignore inhalation exposure.

"Policies can significantly underestimate the risks in former meth houses when new owners aren't aware and therefore indicate the guidelines don't currently address protective health measures."

Now researchers are calling for further studies of air samples using sorbent tubes to get a better gauge of contamination levels.

"This data supports our assessment that the air phase is an important aspect of the transfer of methamphetamine contamination, and the inhalation pathway is just as relevant as surface sampling when evaluating exposure risks," Dr Ross said.