Fighting an epidemic: Meth's far-reaching effects

TULSA - Police will tell you Oklahoma's meth problem is not going away.

For more than a year, the 2NEWS Investigators looked into a record-breaking number of meth busts.

It's not just the users and makers who are putting themselves in harm's way. It's everyone.

"If you create a pound of meth, you are going to leave behind six to seven pounds of hazardous waste product," said Jeffery Scott, a special agent with the DEA in Washington D.C.

He is concerned about meth, especially meth coming from Mexico. It's something Oklahoma has already been experiencing.

This past summer more than a dozen suspects were rounded up in Oklahoma City. Agents say they are part of a Mexican drug network.

So far this year, meth busts are down some from last year's record-breaking numbers, but experts say meth is still a major problem.

"You have danger at the time when it's cooked, when it's being done and after the fact with the discarded chemicals and discarded waste," said Scott.

With relatively new methods of cooking meth, labs have become small and mobile.

Meth can literally be made in a 2-liter bottle. That means meth can be cooked in cars or hotel rooms. You name it, police say they have seen it.

"I would say yes, I did some testing in hotels and yes we did find extensive contamination," said Coaimhim Connell, a forensic industrial hygienist from Colorado.

Recently, he was staying in Tulsa and tested some hotel rooms for meth residue.

"In the case of the Tulsa project, we found levels of meth that were present to toxicologically significant concentrations. In layman's terms? It could make you sick. We found levels of meth that could make a person sick," Connell said.

He worries housekeepers are more likely to be injured cleaning up contaminated meth by-products than guests staying in the rooms. Still there is a risk.

Now what about that used car you are looking to buy? How can you be sure it was not ever a meth car? The 2NEWS Investigators discovered in Oklahoma you can't.

"Obviously if we acquired a car and suspect it has had meth in it, or had meth cooked in it, we wouldn't sell that car," said Bob Mulkey of Regal Car Sales.

He says as far as he knows he has never had a meth car on his lot. But Mulkey realizes it could happen.

In fact, our partners at Scripps Howard News Service found that, although there are disclosure laws regarding homes in Oklahoma, there aren't any laws regarding meth contamination in vehicles or hotel rooms.

Bob Mulkey says, like most used car dealers, he gets his cars at auction.

By the time he sees a car, it has been cleaned and detailed. There is almost know way he could know if it was a meth car.

Mulkey says the state should step in and protect consumers.

"When police arrest someone or they have a car at the impound that has had meth in it, the are going to have to brand the title," Mulkey said.

Right now that is not happening.

We took those concerns to State Representative Fred Jordan who believes the law should change, allowing vehicle titles to be marked if meth was found in a car.

"If we are concerned about meth labs and potential physical harms from residue from meth labs in homes and apartments, then it only makes logical since that we protect the citizens who purchase vehicles that may have the same drugs associated with them," Jordan said.

One thing we know for sure, as long as meth is being cooked, innocent people may be put in harms way.

Police are working to take down dealers on a daily basis but at this point it doesn't appear Oklahoma's meth problem will go away anytime soon. 

So experts say you need to have as much knowledge as possible to protect yourself and your family.

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