Crystal methamphetamine has rapidly become the illicit drug of choice.
However, the use and manufacturing of this drug presents problems unique
to communities that other drug abuse has not presented in the past. When
law enforcement was just beginning to appreciate this drug's devastating
effects on communities and users, the focus of law enforcement was to
develop safe procedures to locate and seize meth labs. As law enforcement
became sophisticated in the detection, seizure and arrest of these clandestine
labs and their operators, what became astoundingly apparent was that the
real victims of the crime were the children. Thirty to thirty-five
percent of seized meth labs are in homes where children reside.
National Jewish Research Center Methamphetamine
Research - Full Report
National Jewish Research Center Methamphetamine
Research - Synopsis
Larimer County Agreement and Protocol
Jewish Research Center Methamphetamine Research - Full Report
The State of Colorado as well as the nation face an unprecedented
epidemic of clandestine methamphetamine drug manufacturing. Seizures
of methamphetamine drug laboratories continue to rise putting police
and fire first responders at risk for a variety of hazards. The
number of seizures in Colorado has risen dramatically from 31 laboratories
in 1998 to 455 laboratories in 2001. First responders and susceptible
third parties, such as children, are at risk for exposures to the
chemical hazards and the fire, explosion, and safety hazards inherent
with clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine.
Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the specific exposure
hazards faced by first responders and bystanders associated with
illegal methamphetamine manufacture and lab seizure. As a result
there is very poor information on which to establish appropriate
medical treatment plans and healthcare providers are forced to provide
generic, often expensive, and probably to some extent unnecessary
The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by emergency services
and law enforcement.... Read
the entire report (requires Adobe Acrobat PDF
Jewish Research Center Methamphetamine Research - Synopsis
In the year 2002 the National Clandestine Laboratory Database reported
8,911 clandestine laboratory seizures. Over ninety percent of these
were methamphetamine production and over 2078 incidents involved
children. First responders and children alike are exposed to toxic
and hazardous chemical exposure. Many of the hazards of this illicit
process and the type of exposure have not been studied extensively,
and are therefore unknown. According to the El Paso Intelligence
Center, the increase of methamphetamine production has resulted
in at least one methamphetamine laboratory in every state of the
union in 2002. In January 2003, National Jewish Hospital and Research
center began to study the harmful effects of methamphetamine labs
to first responders and children through various methodologies,
including: controlled lab studies, field controlled lab studies
and surveys. The study expanded its scope throughout the year with
results that may impact the way in which first responders and investigators
perform their duties. Throughout the duration of this study, the
spirit of collaboration and cooperation has been a predominant factor.
The initial study concerns included the potential, exposures, related
health concerns, medical monitoring, and the comprehensive use of
personal protective equipment. Throughout the study additional questions
arose regarding the airborne properties of methamphetamine, the
decontamination process and the degree of danger to children.
The standards used for measuring exposure were those utilized for
an occupational setting. These guidelines and standards are formulated
based on a predominantly male workforce, 20-30 years of age and
healthy. These standards are not applicable to children, those with
health conditions or pregnant women. To date, there are no suitable
standards established regarding exposures to children during the
production of methamphetamine. Therefore, a significant amount of
future research is still needed in order to accurately determine
the degree of dangers to children.
There are approximately three contemporary “street”
methods to manufacture methamphetamine in the United States. Countless
numbers of “recipes” exist in drug cultures for manufacturing.
In this study the primary method observed with the “Pseudo-Ephedrine
Reduction Method”, using red phosphorous or hypophosphorous.
Future studies will include the use of anhydrous ammonia in the
“Birch” or “Nazi” Method. The primary emitting
chemicals of focus throughout the study were: phosphine, iodine,
hydrogen chloride, other acids and methamphetamine itself. Intially,
solvents (organic chemicals) were examined as well, but later disregarded
due to the insignificant amounts found. These materials dissipate
quickly. This study also served to examine the specific hazards
during the different stages of manufacturing.
Officials from NIOSH, National Jewish Research Center and Law Enforcement
performed the controlled laboratory portion of the study in a municipal
police department crime lab. Three formulas were used; a “street”
Red Phosphorous method, a DEA laboratory method and a method utilizing
hypophosphorous acid. The standards applied for exposure detection
were those of Threshold Limit Values (TLV) and Short Term Exposure
Limits (STEL). Again, these are occupational standards. Although
no occupational standard exists for methamphetamine; a reference
standard has been established for surface levels, which is more
applicable than using a pharmaceutical dosage amount.
During the scientific laboratory portion, designed to examine “worst
case” scenarios, occupational standards for hydrogen chloride,
iodine, phosphine were all exceeded at one point or another. Levels
for hydrogen chloride acid were at and above the limits. Phosphine
measured up to three times the short-term exposure limit and ten
times over the recommended eight hour per day limit. Iodine and
methamphetamine were up to thirty times over the limits. Most monitors
measure an average measurement over a given time period, therefore,
exact peaks are not recognized and could be reaching extremely dangerous
The research team responded to sixteen suspected methamphetamine
laboratory investigations with a local task force. Although none
of the locations had an in-process working lab, air samples and
surface wipe samples were taken. Most of the labs were considered
small in nature and the presence of chemicals limited. There were
no significant levels of hydrochloric acid, phosphine, iodine or
solvents found. A number of notable iodine stains on carpets, walls
and furniture were observed. Most significantly, there were excessive
levels of methamphetamine found throughout the labs on a wide variety
of surfaces. Methamphetamine was detected in ten out of fourteen
labs tested. The presence of methamphetamine was found on vertical
as well as horizontal surfaces in levels up to 10,000 times over
the recommended amount. Methamphetamine, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine
contamination was detected on appliances, counters, vents, and furniture
in extreme amounts. Due to the presence of contamination various
surfaces, it was determined that sustainable, widespread high-level
methamphetamine contamination occurs during the manufacturing process,
which led to more focus in this area during the remaining research.
The next phase consisted of two controlled methamphetamine labs
conducted by certified chemists. The first was done in an abandoned
house and the second in a motel. Both locations were scheduled for
demolition. The purpose was to determine the likely exposures during
the cooking process itself, particularly to first responders and
those dwelling in the structure. The set up was designed to be reflective
of a “typical” clandestine illegal cooking process.
Samples were taken throughout the area of both cooks, including
near the cook, a distance away and within the breathing zone of
In the first cook, conducted at the house, a lesser amount of methamphetamine
was produced than what is normally discovered in most street level
operations, possibly resulting in less exposure than the typical
clandestine lab. A Red-P “street” method and two hypophosphorous
methods were used for a total of three separate cooks. Phosphine,
iodine and hydrogen chloride levels all exceeded safe exposure levels
in the area of the cook in the Red-P process, causing significant
During the “salting out” phase, hydrogen chloride levels
for all three cooks were dangerously high. The levels were high
enough to be of significant risk to anyone present during this phase
with a peak reaching 228 mg/m3, when the ceiling TLV is 7.5 mg/m3
for hydrochloric acid.
Vertical and horizontal wipe samples were taken for methamphetamine
contamination. Even at distances away from the cook, both horizontal
and vertical surfaces showed the presence of methamphetamine, suggesting
that it rapidly travels as an aerosol throughout the vicinity. Again,
this cook produced only a small amount of methamphetamine, yet still
revealed significant contamination and potential exposure. Wipes
were also taken from participants of the study, revealing significant
methamphetamine contamination to those present at a clandestine
lab site on their clothing and skin.
The second controlled lab study took place in a hotel room with
an attached bathroom. The cook was administered by chemists from
the D. E. A. and a “street” Red-P method was utilized.
Both time averaged and real-time (peak) level measurements were
taken for phosphine, iodine and hydrochloric acid. Three types of
wipe sampling were conducted for airborne methamphetamine. Personal
pumps were placed on the chemists conducting the cook and wipe samples
were taken from the outer suits of some of the personnel assisting
with the study.
During the cooking phase of the process, time-averaged levels for
phosphine, iodine and hydrochloric acid stayed below the recommended
threshold limit values. During the “salting out” period,
phosphine and iodine stayed below threshold limit values, but hydrochloric
acid exceeded levels in the bathroom area of the hotel room up to
twice the short term exposure limit. Peak level measurements taken
in real time indicated that phosphine was at and above the TLV for
the “salting out” period and hydrochloric acid was over
the limit of Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH), creating
a significant health risk. Seventeen different locations were examined
for methamphetamine in the room of the lab, hallway and in an adjacent
room. Methamphetamine levels were found at ten to a thousand times
over the recommended standard, which indicated that methamphetamine
itself becomes airborne and produces widespread contamination in
the cook area and beyond. Methamphetamine was detected in the adjacent
room and down the hallway on carpet samples at high levels. Personal
wipe samples of personnel supported that contamination of skin and
clothing will occur to those present at a methamphetamine lab and
sufficient decontamination must be conducted for first responders
In addition to the various lab studies, a questionnaire survey
was also administered to first responders. In this study, sixty-six
percent of respondents stated that they had detected odors associated
with methamphetamine labs they had entered, suggesting the likelihood
of some type of exposure. However, only twenty-six percent reported
that they wear respirators during investigations. Thirty-eight percent
of those surveyed reported being sent through the decontamination
process and over fifty percent (52%) of the respondents reported
having at least one symptom associated with methamphetamine labs.
The primary symptoms reported were eye irritation, sore throat,
cough, dizziness and headaches.
Research efforts are scheduled to continue through 2004 with additional
controlled methamphetamine labs including anhydrous ammonia, hypophosphorous
and red phosphorous methods. Further examination of the decontamination
procedure and an increased evaluation of the harmful effects upon
children shall continue as well. For further information contact
Dr. John Martyny at (303) 398-1939 or go to www.nationaljewish.org.
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has developed an agreement between the Department of Human
Services and the Drug Task Force and a Protocol for Investigating
Child Protection Referrals. This is a terrific example of how agencies
are working together to protect Colorado's children from drug endangered
Memo of Understanding
Protocol for Investigating Child Protection
Referrals Involving the Operation of “Clandestine Labs.”
Memorandum of Understanding
This memorandum of understanding, made this 1st day of April 2003
by and between the Larimer County Department of Human Services,
2555 Midpoint Drive, Suite E, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525, hereinafter
referred to as LCDHS, and Larimer County Drug Task Force, 300 Laporte,
Fort Collins, CO 80521, hereinafter referred to as LCDTF and in
accordance with MOU requirements developed by the Colorado Department
of Human Services and Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division
of Criminal Justice, effective 23rd day of May 2002.
Whereas, the parties are authorized under federal
statutory authority Title 1 of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe
Streets Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. &, 3701, et, seq., as amended,
under the program name “FY 2002 Byrne Formula Grant Program;”
Whereas, the intent of the “FY 2002 Byrne
Formula Grant Program” is to provide federal financial assistance
to state and local law enforcement agencies in Colorado to foster
collaborative efforts in support of national drug-control priorities
to control violent, drug related crimes and offenders; and,
Whereas, Bureau of Justice Assistance Byrne Grant
Award #2002-DB-BX-0008 contains special conditions and requirements
of DCJ concerning subgrantee law enforcement activities related
to the identification, seizure or closure of clandestine methamphetamine
laboratories and the treatment of any minors involved therein; and,
Whereas, in fulfillment of the special conditions
and requirements associated with Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant
Award #2002-DB-BX-0008, and described in the award as “Mitigation
of Health, Safety and Environment Risks,” LCDHS and LCDTF
hereby agree to the following:
of the Agreement – The agreement is a collaborative
effort between the two agencies to assist in the identification,
investigation and the removal of Drug Endangered Children from hazardous
drugs usage and manufacturing locations found within the Larimer
County Law Enforcement jurisdictions. Jurisdictions include Fort
Collins Police Services, Colorado State University Police, Larimer
County Sheriff Department and Loveland Police Department, excluding
the cities of Estes Park and Berthoud. Each of the parties agree
to make available to each other specialized trained investigators,
equipment, resources and information needed for these situations.
of the Agreement – This MOU is effective when signed
for the period beginning January 31, 2003 and expiring on June 30,
requirement – All Colorado law enforcement agencies
awarded a Byrne subgrant by DCJ will be required to report the discovery
of any minors at methamphetamine laboratory site, to the Larimer
County Department of Human Services as appropriate under the following
Colorado state statutes and any others as may be relevant:
C.R.S. & 19-3-401 (1)(a) “Taking
Children into Custody.” A child may be taken into temporary
custody by a law enforcement officer without order of the
court: When the child is abandoned, lost or seriously endangered
in such child’s surroundings or seriously endangers
others and immediate removal appears to be necessary for such
child’s protection or the protection of others;….and,
|C.R.S. & 19-3-102 (1) (c) “Neglected
or Dependent Child”: A child is neglected or dependent
if …. The child’s environment is injurious to his
or her welfare....
Law Enforcement reports to LCDHS concerning minors located in a
methamphetamine laboratory site shall be made promptly and in a
manner to ensure immediate response by qualified LCDHS personnel.
will provide the usual and customary services of its child protection
services to peace officers handling minors involved in the seizure
or closure of methamphetamine laboratories; including but not limited
Response to the potential health needs of any minor at
|Taking the minor into protective custody unless the minor
is criminally involved in the methamphetamine lab activities
or is subject to arrest for other criminal violations;
|Ensuring immediate medical testing for methamphetamine toxicity;
|Arranging for any follow-up medical tests, examinations, or
health care made necessary as a result of methamphetamine toxicity
or chemical exposure.
(5) LCDTF and LCDHS will conduct
joint investigations in accordance to the mutually agreed upon terms
listed in Appendix A, “ Protocol for investigating
Child Protection Referrals involving the operation of, “Clandestine
In Witness whereof, the parties have caused this agreement to be
executed by the parties’ duly authorized representatives as
set forth below.
Ginny Riley, Director of Department of Human Services Date
Angela Mead, MSW- Deputy Division Manager, Department of Human Services
Chief Dennis Harrison, Fort Collins Police Services Date
Lt. Craig Dodd, Larimer County Drug Task Force Date
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Protocol for investigating Child
Protection Referrals involving the operation of “Clandestine
Screening Procedures – Intake Specialists in the
A) Information needs
- Basic identifying information and household
composition. Regular screening criteria applies.
- Other Information needs:
- Specific description of condition
of household – fires? Safety hazards?
- Squalor like conditions?
- High degree of adult traffic at home?
- Drug paraphernalia? Chemicals? (See
- Adult Drug abuse? Witnessed and by
whom? Exposure to kids?
- Weapons in the home?
- Evidence of surveillance equipment?
- Behavioral description of adult who
is abusing drug ( paranoia, abnormal sleeping patterns, aggression,
- Prior law enforcement involvement
or contact with family?
- Location of kids at point of referral
and at time of anticipated raid.
- Adult Employment?
- How does the referring party have
this information, direct observer or was informed and by whom?
B) Historical Information
- Check all Child Protection priors –
assigned or filed for future reference – look for chronic
pattern of lack of supervision, neglect complaints, poor school
attendance, parental drug abuse, physical abuse and sex abuse
- Drug related criminal offenses as reported
in Child Youth and Family database
- Legal Involvement as reported in Child
Youth and Family database.
C) Placement considerations, including traditional and
non-traditional KIN(family members)
Case Assignor Duties
Screen referrals and forward to appropriate unit and assign worker.
Designate response time as further risk assessment. Supervisor determines
response time beyond initial case assigning.
Any cases that are filed for future reference, we can call the Larimer
County Drug Task Force (LCDTF) phone line and forward information.
Drug Task Force involvement will be determined by Caseworker if
cases are assigned.
Assigned caseworker will consult with LCDTF to determine if task
force involvement is needed immediately. Response time will be discussed
and coordinated with caseworker, their supervisor and LCDTF.
The Larimer County Drug Task Force will take lead on any investigations.
Caseworkers will not respond to lab site without the presence of
law enforcement. The lab site has to be secured by the task force
before caseworkers are allowed to enter. Although caseworkers respond
to scene they are required to stay in the holding zone until they’ve
been advised to enter. Law enforcement secures the area and removes
the children. In a confirmed lab, if a child has been exposed, they
have to go through a decontamination process facilitated by law
enforcement and are required to be physically examined by a doctor/EMT
or emergency room doctor at a hospital. Since their clothing may
be contaminated it may be necessary to provide a change of clothing.
This process occurs before the child is physically seen by Caseworker.
Caseworkers should come prepared with a change in clothing (Child
Comfort Supplies). Do not bring any personal possessions
from the home environment with the child. Caseworkers are allowed
to transport children after they have been decontaminated and released
to DHS custody under an "Authorization to place in protective
- Review Child Protection prior referrals
- Check criminal history including contact/info
- Consult all caseworkers known to have
previous investigations with same suspect(s)
- Staff case with supervisor or leadworker
- Contact Patrol for designated Law Enforcement
Agency (decision made on a case – by case basis)
- Contact Drug Task Force and relay pertinent
All methamphetamine cases require
police assistance regardless if they’re suspected or confirmed.
First call goes to the LCDTF for screening and determination
if they need to respond. Cases appropriate to be referred to regular
patrol will be determined at that time.
If there are disagreements between agencies on response times,
consult with an intake supervisor. Appropriate steps will be taken
by the supervisor.
Coordinate response in consideration of safety of children,
adults and DHS staff regarding a confirmed clandestine lab:
Employee safety is of utmost concern in the handling of
these cases. Law enforcement takes the lead on this type of investigation.
No staff are allowed to enter a crime scene until it has been secured
and determined safe by law enforcement. Caseworkers will be advised
by Law Enforcement as to the protective gear they would be required
to wear to prevent residual contamination. Protective gear will
be provided. Caseworkers will not be allowed to enter a crime scene
when risk cannot be managed by protective gear. Law Enforcement
will continue with investigation and provide necessary information
regarding the dwelling to the caseworker. If you’re allowed
to enter a dwelling, proceed with the following:
- Examine home inside and outside, unattached dwellings
– take photos and document observations on sight. Observation
only, do not physically handle any evidence.
- Visual inspection of children after they’ve
been de-contaminated if exposure is confirmed.
- Interview children away from adults/parent (determined
by caseworker and lead investigator). Timing and location of interviewing
children is determined on a case by case basis.
- Interview adults – separately (determined by caseworker
and lead investigator).
Caseworkers can participate in the interview with the perpetrator
at the discretion of the law enforcement investigator. Be sure
to inform the investigator of your information needs.
- Medical assessment of children – follow medical protocol
for confirmed labs and medical evaluation on children placed.
In confirmed lab cases, an ambulance will be called to the scene.
(See attached medical protocol)
- Emergency placement on all kids when we’ve confirmed
a lab – Out of Home Placement criteria applies.
Documentation – evidence gathering
- Document proximity of lab, drugs, drug
paraphernalia, chemicals to area child occupies (bedroom, playroom,
bathroom, living room or kitchen).
- Take photographs and measure proximity.
- Record direct observations – transcribe
into report, audio recording on scene is strongly recommended.
Additional information gathering for case:
- Police Report
- Medical Report
- Drug test findings
- Disclosure Statements
- Child Drawings if applicable
Initial Case Management Services:
- Safety considerations – protective
- Substance Free – random urinary
- Non-threatening/harassing behavior
- Supervised visits in controlled setting
by C/W and Case Service Aide
- Interim Treatment Plan elements in Dependency
and Neglect Petition
- Substance Abuse Evaluation
- Random Urinary Analysis
- Decontamination of home or alternative
Case coordination – debriefings with Law Enforcement Agency/District
Attorney/Probation and other Treatment collateral's
Please be advised if you are investigating
another type of child maltreatment and discover strong indications
of a Clandestine Lab, remove yourself immediately and report back
to your supervisor. The Larimer County Drug Task Force is to be
contacted and appropriate information relayed.
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