Homeowners learning their homes were once used as meth labs is an increasingly large problem. Officials shut down the meth labs and the homes often end up back on the market with no proper cleaning done.
This has led to families purchasing the homes and unknowingly being in harm's way.
One couple in Washington state was horrified to learn the home they'd purchased five years ago was once a meth lab. The home had a standard inspection done, and all seemed fine with the residence.
Except no one had disclosed to the couple the fact it was once the location of a meth lab.
Jessie and John Bates were worried after their family began to develop health problems after moving into their new house in in Suquamish, Wash. According to KCPQ, the couple's 7-year-old son suffered breathing problems, John Bates became continuously sick, and Jessie Bates broke out in rashes.
“He [the couple's son] was bright red, he was retracting around the ribs and he broke out in almost like a heat rash, and he said his chest hurt so I rushed him to the emergency room," Jessie Bates told Fox News.
Then there were the foul odors that couldn't be explained, at least initially.
Eventually, the couple was shocked to find out over a year later the $235,000 home they'd purchased had previously been used as a meth lab. This revelation was made after a neighbor casually mentioned this information to the Bates during a conversation.
Armed with this new information, the couple began to investigate their home, and found it was soaked with meth-related chemicals, which are hazardous.
“It came to us when we were tearing up the master bathroom, after the floor started sinking and got spongy,” Jessie Bates said. “That’s when we found the iodine-like staining on the walls and human feces under the floor.”
KCPQ reported on another family that purchased a former meth lab; this one in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jaimee Alkinani and her family found themselves also experiencing unexplained illnesses and breathing problems. When the family bought the home in 2007, they also were not informed of the history of the house, finding out from a neighbor a few days after the purchase was final. When they made inquiries, they were told by their realtor not to worry, the house had been decontaminated; a state health certificate even had been produced.
Apparently, it hadn't been done sufficiently as testing showed the presence of contamination was "63 times higher than the level at which the Utah State Health Department condemns a house," reported ScienceLine in 2010.
“Because there were no [disclosure] laws at the time, there was nothing we could do,” Alkinani told FoxNews.com. The Alkinanis had to leave their home and almost faced bankruptcy before settling with their mortgage company.
Last summer a Louisiana couple faced a similar situation with unexplained illnesses. In their case, the meth reside sparked an explosion one night after the homeowners used their fireplace, shattering glass all over their living room. In this case, at the time of purchase there also weren't any meth disclosure laws in place.
At the time the Bates had purchased their home, there was no meth lab disclosure law in their case either. An estimate to clean the home was placed at $90,000; they opted to tear the home down and rebuild. This cost the couple $184,000 and it'll take them well over a decade to recover financially from this nightmare, they are reportedly furious no one informed them of the home's history, but are moving forward.
"But really, we were very, very lucky," Jessie Bates said. "We know that we’re the exception.”
According to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, over 12 million Americans have tried methamphetamine, and more than 1.5 million use regularly. The agency says police rank methamphetamine as the most problematic drug.
At this point many states in the U.S. have disclosure laws in place, but there are likely many families living in homes purchased before these laws come into place. There are still some laws which are weak in nature, and what is deemed "clean" may vary from state to state.
“There are some bad certification methods out there. You could be a pizza delivery guy, study for a month, pay $250 and be certified,”Joe Mazzuca, a methamphetamine contamination expert and CEO of Meth Lab Cleanup, a nationwide meth-lab-specific cleanup company based in Boise, Idaho, told ScienceLine in 2010.