Local law enforcement and real estate agents are backing an Ohio House bill that would require homeowners selling their houses to disclose up front whether the property was ever used as a drug lab.
The legislation, now headed to the Ohio Senate, also aims at preventing people from unknowingly leasing properties or buying vehicles contaminated by highly toxic meth residue or fumes.
Washington County sheriff's Maj. Mark Warden said police have investigated about 15 methamphetamine labs in the county since the first one was detected in 1999.
"The majority of them have been in homes," Warden said. "But with increased law enforcement pressure, we're finding that more and more labs are now portable and they're placing these labs in coolers and taking them from place to place to place, trying to stay one step ahead of us."
Meth is generally made with over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel and antifreeze.
The ingredients are "cooked" and filtered to produce power or crystals. The process releases highly toxic fumes that can linger in a home or automobile for years.
"When you hear 'lab,' we're not talking about a chemistry set with glass test tubes and beakers," Warden said. "It could be a Mountain Dew bottle with a mason jar. There are many ways to make it, but it's all dangerous."
Recently, the Ohio House unanimously passed the Methamphetamine Awareness and Notification Act, which also creates a public database of meth-tainted properties and vehicles.
The bill was introduced three years ago but it languished in debates over liability, cleanup standards and how a property could be removed from the public database, according to The Associated Press.
In the meantime, Realtors have been instructed to keep eyes open for potential meth labs to protect consumers.
"The state board of Realtors has been telling us for some time how toxic these labs are and how residual they are," said Steve Mccarthy, broker/president of Real Living McCarthy Real Estate. "I don't think this is a bad idea to have it disclosed, at all."
McCarthy said the state already requires many things to be disclosed to potential home-buyers.
"If there's lead-based paint, problems with any of the mechanical systems, past fires... Things like that all have to be disclosed," he said.
Ohio law does not require murders or suicides in a home to be reported.
"Those aren't asked for on the residential property disclosure form; however, (it's our policy) to disclose in a discrete manner," McCarthy said. "When in doubt, disclose."