WASHINGTON (AP) -- While rural police struggle to contain crystal methamphetamine abuse, health officials are trying to come to terms with the drug's hidden danger: contaminated homes where meth was cooked, leaving toxic rooms for unwitting tenants.
House lawmakers are to make a new push today with a bill for federal research to identify the health dangers and help states create standards for cleaned-up houses, and will hold a hearing next month examining the health dangers of shut-down meth labs.
"We don't know enough about it ... but we know it's a monumental health problem," said Science Committee chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y. "Once John Law comes and arrests someone, what happens to the next occupiers of that apartment, particularly the youngster crawling around on carpets full of chemicals?"
The top Democrat on the committee, Bart Gordon of Tennessee, has been pushing for the federal government to take more aggressive action in curbing meth and the damage it does to small communities.
"This bill will identify key areas where science and technology can support local efforts on the front lines of the meth battle," said Gordon, who is co-sponsoring the bill to launch research and develop national cleanup standards for meth labs.
Dan Hannan, a manager at Bay West, a St. Paul, Minn., cleanup company, said such research standards are overdue.
"The states are basically making it up as they go along," said Hannan.
A former meth lab that hasn't been properly cleaned can quickly sicken children who move into a home.
"I've seen a number of cases where a single mother of two moves into an apartment, the place used to be a meth lab, and within days the children have respiratory problems, nosebleeds, headaches," said Hannan.
Meth, also known as crank, ice or crystal, is a powerful stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected. It contains pseudoephedrine, found in over-the-counter cold medications.