Meth Production Dangers / Fentanyl Pill Manufacture

Clandestine methamphetamine and fentanyl properties pose safety and health risks


Meth & Fentanyl Production on the Increase

Over the past few years, the illegal production of methamphetamine (meth) and fentanyl has increased substantially in many regions of the United States. The manufacture of these drugs has cased billions of dollars in property damage and most importantly, has become a health hazard to people through use and subsequent contamination in homes. DO NOT ENTER a site or handle materials you think my be used for cooking illegal drugs. If you unknowingly enter a lab and see something cooking that you think may be meth or other drugs, DO NOT TURN IT OFF! Leave the property immediately. Interrupting a chemical reaction may cause an explosion. To report a suspected lab, call 911.

production Process Releases Chemicals Throughout the Property

During the meth manufacturing process, chemical compounds become airborne (volatilized) and settle out, depositing onto walls, ceilings, appliances, floors,l carpets and other typical household items throughout the structure's interior. In addition, chemicals used to make illegal drugs may be spilled during handling. Meth can also be distributed through the use of the drug. The presence of these chemicals may post health threats to occupants and potential liability to property owners. Due to the seriousness of this problem, over two dozen states have adopted regulatory testing and decontamination standards and many more will follow suite before the end of the decade.

Warning Signs Posted - DO NOT ENTER

Properties in which law enforcement has made an arrest, or properties that a health department has deemed unfit, will be posted against entry with signs warning of possible chemical contamination. Occupation of properties where meth labs have been discovered will usually be prohibited until after assessment and/or remediation by a certified clandestine drug lab contractor has been performed in accordance with the law. The warning signs prohibit anyone from entering the property unless they are certified to do so. Because of the health problems associated with the production of illegal drugs in homes or other interiors: no one should enter or occupy a place that has been used as an illegal drug lab without appropriate protection or until the area has been decontaminated.


After the meth cooking process has stopped, most of the hazards decrease. However, some residual contamination created from repeated "cooks" can persist long after all production has ceased causing meth lab health concerns. These residual chemicals can be volatilized or aerosolized during the cooking process and deposited on surfaces and materials. Airborne contaminants are absorbed into soft materials including rugs, furniture, drapes, walls and other surfaces and may also contaminate the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system of the structure. Spills are common in meth labs and my impact floors, walls, appliances and other surfaces. Clandestine drug lab dangers include chemicals used in the cooking, which may be hazardous, may be dumped down the sinks, toilets or drains in the kitchen or bathrooms and leave contamination in the waste water system. For additional information, see the fact sheets on active and inactive labs.

Chemicals may enter the body bey being breathed, eaten, injected (by a contaminated needle or accidental skin puncture) or absorbed through the skin. Both acute (short term) and chronic (long term) health hazards may result from the exposure to residual contaminates. Acute exposure hazards come from direct contact with product or waste and inhalation of product or wastes. Burns, tissue irritation and rashes may result from chemical spills and ski contact. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other health effects may result from inhalation of vapors. Chronic exposure is contact with a substance over a long period of time (over 1 year).

Some chemicals used in methamphetamine production present a danger of injury from fire or explosion. In addition, at the lab site there are possible risks of exposure to infectious diseases (e.g. HIV, hepatitis B) in the event of skin puncture by drug paraphernalia.

Risk of injury or toxicity from chemical exposure depends on the chemicals' toxic properties, quantity, form, concentration and duration and route of exposure. Systemic absorption of chemicals or injury may occur by one or more of the following routes of exposure:

  • inhalation;
  • contact skin exposure; absorption
  • ingestion (swallowing); and
  • injection.

Inhalation and/or skin exposure (absorption) are the most likely routes of exposure for persons entering the drug lab environment. There is the potential of toxicity from all routes of exposure to the chemicals in a drug lab; i.e., ingestion and injection of the drug, absorption of chemicals spilled onto the skin, adsorption of chemicals deposited onto the ski from vapors and inhalation of vapors. Due to their continuing brain development and special developmental behaviors (such as crawling on the floor and placing objects in their mouths), infants and young children may be at a greater health risk from exposure to chemicals and drugs in methamphetamine laboratories.

Inhalation or skin exposure may result in injury from corrosive substances with symptoms ranging from respiratory symptoms of shortness of breath, cough and chest pain, to burns of the skin. Many solvents are absorbed into the body through the lungs and, if the dose is sufficient, may cause neurological symptoms such as intoxication, dizziness, lack of coordination, disorientation and nausea. The skin, to a lessor extent, may also absorb some solvents if chemicals remain in direct contact,. Ingestion of chemicals will results in the greatest risk of toxicity. A child may accidentally ingest these chemicals, if residual chemical is present on surfaces.

Meth Hazards

Although meth is not the only drug manufactured in clandestine labs, meth labs are the most common. The "cooking" of meth can involve a large variety of chemical reagents depending on the specific method of manufacture. In general, the process involves precursor reagents, organic solvents and reactive reagents that facilitate the conversion of the precursor into methamphetamine The chemicals used are typically purchased, stolen or illegally manufactured.

Production Chemicals are Common

Even though many of these chemicals are commonly found in households and can be "safe" if used appropriately, their inherent dangers are increased when used inappropriately or in combination with other chemicals during the meth production process. Improper storage and disposal of these chemicals and mixtures also creates hazards.

Meth Manufacturing Methods

There are many methods for making meth. Most meth "cooks" use variation of the anhydrous ammonia method and the Red P lab method that utilizes red phosphorous. Other less common methods that are used include the P2P or Amalgam method.