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  1. #1

    Default Methamphetamine testing

    Good Morning All!

    An Home Inspector wrote me this morning, and she had questions about meth testing. I thought I would share with you my response to her.

    Good morning, Ms. Xxxxx!

    Thank you for contacting us and thank you as well for your concerns.

    ACCURACY/RELIABILITY: What product (hand held scanner? Wipes? Lab-tested swabs?) would be the most accurate and reliable?

    Virtually “samples” that are frequently collected in real estate transactions (such as mould, radon) are not really samples at all and the “results” thus generated are not valid. ANY kind of valid sampling must be based on “data quality objectives” (DQOs). This statement is valid for measuring the air flow in a duct, lead in an house, the speed of a car with a radar, mould in the air, or a sound level in a factory.

    Imagine a cop with the most accurate, precise and reliable radar ever made – and he sits in a blind dead end and zaps cars as they pass directly in front of him. All of his “readings” will be useless, since a radar can’t accurately or reliably measure the speed of a vehicle from a perpendicular angle. That is, his measuring device is absolutely accurate, and absolutely reliable and absolutely precise – but his sampling error is so high, that his results are meaningless. That is, his accuracy and precision are poor, even though his measurement method is extremely accurate and precise.

    And so it is with sampling for methamphetamine, (or mould or radon). As an example, in a current legal case of mine, meth sampling was performed by an honest and very good home inspector (who is also my friend, and even a neighbor of mine). He went into an house and collected 40 (forty) samples for meth. All 40 samples came back “clean” and a family moved into the house and became extremely ill. Subsequent sampling was performed by an Industrial Hygienist who collected only six samples –all six samples indicated that the meth contamination in the house was almost 1,000 times over the Colorado regulatory limit.

    So, how could that be? The answer lies in the training of the person collecting the samples. One person (the Industrial Hygienist), knew how to minimize his sampling error through the application of sampling theory, and one person, the Home Inspector, didn’t know anything about sampling theory.

    The Industrial Hygienist knew about fugacity modeling and thermophoretic deposition, and how meth was made and could walk into any property and immediately know where would deposit, if it was present, and therefore conducted “authoritative bias judgmental sampling.” The Home Inspector collected what could best be described as “willy-nilly grab samples.”

    Therefore, when one asks “What is the most accurate and reliable method for analyzing meth?” The answer is gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GCMS). However, if the person collecting the samples for GCMS analysis doesn’t understand sampling theory, then the “results” will be useless, and meaningless.

    Scanners are available, and by using a scanner, one can reduce sampling error by collecting hundreds of samples throughout the house. Such a device is described here: ID2 Meth Scanner - CDEX Inc. The last time I checked, the device cost about $15,000; making the cost economically infeasible.

    GCMS is a “quantitative” analysis method. That is, t definitively identifies and quantifies the analyte of interest. There are also good “qualitative” methods such as the MethCheck and the MethAlert swabs that were developed by a colleague of mine who is with the US PHS, NIOSH. The Federal Gov licenses the products through SKC Inc. “Qualitative” kits are “go-no-go” kits, and will either be “positive” or “not- positive.” Contrary to common belief, qualitative kits can NEVER be “negative.” All positive results should be considered “conclusive presumptive positive” and all “negative” results should be considered “inconclusive.”

    GCMS analysis costs about $40 per analysis, and the SKC product is (I think) about $9 per hit.

    All samples and subsequent analysis must meet the DQOs of 1) Precision, 2) Accuracy 3)Representativeness, 4) Comparability and 5) Completeness. I discuss these “PARCC” parameters in a critical review of a junk science home inspection here:

    TRAINING: What sort of training should he seek to make sure he’s doing the best job possible? As it is, we have reviewed the observable clues to look for during an inspection, and made an additional list of “things to look out for” beyond the usual SOP, but my husband would need to be at least very knowledgeable in the methods of testing, if not officially trained (or certified? If this is even an option?)

    Like any other job, the more training one has, the more competent one is. In Colorado, the only people permitted to perform regulatory meth testing are Industrial Hygienists. In Colorado, it is a Class VI felony to call one’s self an “Industrial Hygienist” if one is not (although Colorado never actually enforces the criminal statute, and that is why we run into problems like this:

    Even where the individual is a Certified Industrial Hygienist, without proper training, we run into fraudulent and incompetent “testing firms” such as this:

    All this leads to law suits. The person performing the testing, (any kind of testing), should be capable of developing DQOs and then ensuring that their sampling and analysis meet those DQOs. Therefore, proper training would include 1) Knowing how to make meth by a variety of methods, 2) understanding sampling theory 3) understanding fugitive emission modeling, and 4) understanding at least basic organic and inorganic chemistry.

    We have a cruel joke: “You too can be an Industrial Hygienist in two easy lessons – each lasting five years.” In my case, I am a police officer and an Industrial Hygienist with 25 years experience, as well as ten years experience as an analytical chemist.

    REPORTING: How would my husband report this? Addendum to the HI report? Separately? Narratively? Numerically? And if the presence is detected (or suspected) shouldn’t the authorities, health department, seller and seller’s agent be notified as well as the client?

    I have touched on some of the reporting issues above. In addition, reporting should meet some kind of standard format (such as the ASTM E620 Standard). An example of a cursory sampling report can be seen here:

    An example of a full assessment can be found here:

    An example of a report after clean-up can be found here:

    (Each of the above documents are in the Public Domain and not subject to confidentiality).

    LEGALITIES: We have been unable to determine from our initial research the legal implications of my husband testing a home. As far as I can tell, Illinois has no regulations on testing and reporting. We would want to minimize our risk (of course)—we are trying to do the RIGHT THING by people, but it would be devastating to be sued for any reason related to this effort. (the business is a sole proprietorship, and as such, technically we could lose everything, but even LLC’s aren’t as air-tight as they used to be).

    I don’t know. Check with your attorney or your Professional Home Inspection Organization (unless of course, it’s one of the less ethical national associations of certified home inspectors).

    All of these are somewhat couched in the overarching “what-would-you-do” question: If you were a home inspector in our shoes—what would you do? After the research we have done, it seems unethical to turn a blind eye to this problem. Would you talk to local law enforcement? Health Department? Your E&O insurance carrier? Get a scanner? Give a formal report? It’s so overwhelming to know exactly what to do.

    I believe that Home Inspectors can provide a valuable service to home buyers, by offering meth testing as part of their normal service. The key is to ensure that the Home Inspector is not pretending that they are an expert in the subject matter (as so often happens with mould and radon). Instead, the “results” should be couched in language that informs the client that the “testing” is an awareness level test, that all positive results are conclusively, and all “negatives” are treated as “unknown.” Unless the Home Inspector is a toxicologist, they should not include any language regarding safety or health.

    Those are just my opinions. I hope they are helpful.

    Caoimhín P. Connell
    Forensic Industrial Hygienist
    Forensic Applications Consulting Technologies, Inc. - Home

    (The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)


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    Last edited by Caoimhín P. Connell; 03-23-2013 at 09:36 AM. Reason: Spelling... of course.
    Inspection Referral SOC

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Default Re: Methamphetamine testing

    i see you are snowed in like i am and have time on your hands--but great article and i agree


  3. #3

    Default Re: Methamphetamine testing

    Yep... Snowed in and still coming down... I hate the snow. I'm thinking of getting drunk by noon and starting a zombie movie marathon.



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