Rise in Houses Contaminated With Meth

“Buyers remorse” took on a whole new level in the case of one Oregon homeowner who is drawing national attention to a problem his family found themselves in.

Jonathan Hankins, of Klamath Falls, Ore., started a petition on Change.org that has gathered nation-wide support when he and his family began experiencing health problems after purchasing their new home. The suffering started with dry mouths and mouth sores, then Hankins started having sinus headaches and nosebleeds.

“It was so hard watching my son scream in pain when he tried to eat or even drink water,” wrote Hankins on Change.org. “That’s when we learned why we were getting sick: Our new home used to be a meth lab.”

The Hankins household was purchased through Freddie Mac, and supporters in all 50 states have signed the Change.org petition calling on the housing lender to check for chemical contamination in the houses it sells.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency considers meth lab contamination a “nationwide issue,” and estimates the problem may be infecting 2.5 million across the U.S.

Valley City Building Inspector Dave Anderson said he has not had to deal with any chemically contaminated properties in the city.

“In all honesty, I haven’t really dealt with meth labs yet,” said Anderson, laughing and making the sign of the cross over his chest.

“Nothing’s come across my board from the state building officials to check.”

Anderson said he turns to the health department in cases where he feels the air quality of a structure might be an issue. So far, he’s only run into mold.

“Basically we look at the structure and if the structure is endangering life/safety then I can step in. Sometimes with air quality and stuff like that it’s a grey area,” said Anderson.

Jan Kamstra, a coordinator at the Barnes County Housing Authority, said the BCHA does background checks and inspections on renters, landlords and apartments, and if anything suspicious pops up she alerts local law enforcement. Kamstra said the housing authority is limited in terms of checking air quality.

“It’s always a matter of funding. They were going to have us test for lead paint at one time but then the funding fell through. It all depends on where the funding dollars go; it’s what they allow us to do,” Kamstra said.

Barnes County State’s Attorney Lee Grossman said buyers should beware of the properties they purchased and ask questions from the seller. The State’s Attorney’s office has had a few dealings with individuals cooking meth in their basements but the county has not yet seized a house that was used as a meth lab.

Grossman said the transfers of property and the problems associated with that property all depend on how the deed was handled.

“If the owner knew about mold behind the bathroom or they did a remodeling project, pulled off the sheet rock and found that there was mold in the studs but they didn’t do anything to fix it, just put up new sheetrock over top of it,; then the new person comes across and says ‘have you ever had any mold problems’ and they say ‘no,’ they know they’re aware of a mold problem and they don’t disclose it... With a meth house its hard to tell,” Grossman said.