Pubdate: Fri, 23 Feb 2001
Source: Blade, The (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Blade
Contact:  541 North Superior St., Toledo OH 43660
Author: Christina Hall, Blade Staff Writer


Explosions Are Possible, Toledo Police Are Told

Methamphetamine, a stimulant prevalent in the West and Midwest, is rearing
its addictive head in northwest Ohio, where four labs were seized last year.

The drug, also known as meth, is made in bathrooms, motel rooms, vehicle
trunks, and coolers with items that can be bought at convenience and
hardware stores, authorities say.

Producers are even siphoning fertilizer from storage tanks on farms to
recover anhydrous am|monia, a key ingredient in the rock-like form of the

Volatile chemicals and unstable producers, who are often meth addicts, can
create an explosive situation for law enforcement officials.

To combat a disaster, members of Toledo police department's special
enforcement division received a refresher course this week on how to
identify clandestine labs and what to do if they come upon one of the
"chemical time bombs."

"It's slowly coming out this way, even though the labs are smaller," said
Tracy Dewey, an agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration's Toledo office
who is certified to enter clandestine labs.

He has been inside about 50 labs, which produce big incomes at little

Cooks can use chemicals, such as acids, ether, and red phosphorus. They also
can use commercial products, such as cold medication, cleaners, and stove
fuel. The cost to buy the items and cooking tools, such as heating elements,
hoses, spatulas, and pans, is minimal when an ounce of meth can sell for
about $1,000, Mr. Dewey said.

DEA officials dismantled four labs between August and October last year -
one each in Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, and Sandusky counties. They were small
labs that produced only about an ounce of meth at a time, Mr. Dewey said.

Toledo police seized a few ounces of methamphetamine last year in raids and
buys and about an ounce this year, Lt. Dan Schultz said. They have not come
across any clandestine labs.

"Meth is here to stay. It's portable, and it's dangerous," he said. The Ohio
Highway Patrol saw an increase in the amount of meth it seized during
traffic stops between 1999 and 2000. Last year 7,518 grams were seized
compared to 49 grams the year before, Lt. Gary Lewis, a patrol spokesman,

"We have seen moving mobile meth labs. We've noticed most have the ability
to work, but are missing one link before becoming a full-blown lab," he
said. "There is a concern for the individual in the vehicle and other
motoring public."

Authorities must be cautious when dealing with labs. Chemical bottles may
not have labels and be unidentifiable. The wrong mix can be explosive.
Producers may booby-trap the area around their labs.

Meth has been around since the 19th century and was used by World War II
soldiers to help them stay alert, according to the DEA. The drug spread in
the United States in the 1970s. An estimated 9.4 million Americans have
tried meth in their lifetime, according to the 1999 National Household
Survey on Drug Abuse.

In his State of the State address in January, Governor Taft asked
legislators to join him in fighting the growing use of the drug, also called
speed, ice, and crank.

Lawmakers across the country are being asked to help in the fight against
the drug, which the DEA says is the "fastest growing drug threat in America
today." The threat just doesn't lie with users and those who combat them. It
also lies with the environment.

"One pound of mass leads to five to six pounds of hazardous waste," said
Abby Lavelle, of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's division of
emergency and remedial response.
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