The New Zealand Government’s science adviser has found no evidence that residue from home methamphetamine smoking will harm future residents, paving the way for a review of clean-up rules.
Home testing and remediation have surged in recent years amid public fears that even trace levels of meth residue are a risk. Insurers have seen a jump in related claims.
The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser Peter Gluckman says the risk of encountering methamphetamine on home surfaces at levels that might cause harm is “extremely low”.
Testing is not warranted in most cases and remediation to the current standard is appropriate only in former meth labs and properties where “excessive methamphetamine use” is indicated.
Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says remediation should be proportional to established health risks.
“I expect, pending Cabinet agreement, that there will be a public consultation document on meth regulations later this year,” he said.
New Zealand last year released a testing and remediation standard to ensure clean-ups reduce residue levels to 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres.
The Gluckman report says this level is conservative and exposures below 15 micrograms are still highly unlikely to cause adverse effects.
Levels of more than 30 micrograms are indicative of manufacturing activity.
“There are no published, or robust unpublished, data relating to health risks of residing in a dwelling formerly used only for smoking methamphetamine,” the report says.
Third-hand exposure to former meth labs can cause physiological and behavioural effects, although symptoms mostly relate to other chemicals released during manufacturing.
“It is refreshing to see well-informed, objective research that shines a light on a problem that has caused confusion,” Insurance Council of New Zealand CEO Tim Grafton said.
“There has been a lot of scaremongering and uncertainty for tenants, landlords and insurers.”
IAG New Zealand says it is “taking a keen interest” in the report and will feed into a review of the remediation standard signalled by the Government.
“Our current policy coverage is in accordance with that standard,” a spokesman said. “If the standard changes as a result of the review, IAG will revise its approach at the appropriate time.”