Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jan 2006
Source: Hendersonville Times-News (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Hendersonville Newspaper Corporation
Author: Scott Parrott, staff writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Methamphetamine is a man-made, addictive stimulant drug that is
created in illegal laboratories. Ingredients used to create
methamphetamine include, denatured alcohol, rubbing alcohol, iodine,
nail polish remover, drain cleaner and sinus medicine. Capt. Chris
Beddingfield leans forward in his chair and lifts a list of
ingredients that sounds like a kitchen cabinet worth of hazardous
cleaning supplies or first aid potions.

"When you start looking at the chemicals that go into methamphetamine,
you can't even pronounce them," says Beddingfield, the head of
investigations for the Polk County Sheriff's Department.

"There's 45 chemicals listed on this sheet I have got right here," he
continues. "This is what they call precursor chemicals, and if you
possess them with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, it's
against the law."

Beddingfield busted a guy the night before who had stashed such
chemicals in his car trunk. Now he's confined upstairs, in the jail
above Beddingfield's office.

Beddingfield eyes the list.

"You've got," he says. Pause. "I can't even say that."

He plunges ahead.

"Anhydrous ammonia is a big one."

"Benzyl Chloride."




"Red phosphorus."




Beddingfield says he has trouble pronouncing some of the chemical
names. But he and other law enforcement officers know what they add up

Take one drug-addicted amateur chemist. Mix in volatile, toxic
chemicals. Add heat.

It's a recipe for disaster.

Danger lurks

Seven years ago, police busted nine meth labs in North Carolina. By
2005, the number exploded to 328, nearly one a day, most found stashed
in the mountains.

Beneath each digit lurks danger, a threatened community.

For example, take one lab.

A man decides to cook meth. He wants to get high. Maybe he will sell
the rest, get enough cash for another batch.

He tracks down the recipe on the Internet, or maybe he receives
tutoring from an experienced cook.

The recipe calls for a laundry list of household chemicals, the sort
of stuff found beneath the kitchen sink.

Plastic bottles marked poison, do not mix.

So he mixes.

Mix the wrong chemicals, and it could burst into flames and

Firefighters respond, not knowing the danger they face.

"It's huge. I mean, it's death. You take a breath of the wrong
chemical, you may not even know what you're getting into before it's
too late," Beddingfield says.

Another scenario: the lab could pump toxic gas into the

The toxic fumes flow into the carpet, into the ceiling, into the lungs
of the neglected child sitting on the carpet in the living room.

It's a common scene.

The N.C. Attorney General's Office says police find children in a
third of the labs they bust. And many suffer from chronic exposure,
which can cause permanent damage to their respiratory systems, the
State Bureau of Investigation says.

Say nothing goes wrong in this meth lab. The cook concocts the drug
and sells some on the street. Meth snatches another addict.

The cook dumps the toxic by-products from the lab into a sewer, lake,
river or roadside. It's a common occurrence, the SBI says. Each pound
of meth creates five to seven pounds of hazardous waste.

Maybe the cook rents the place, a motel room or apartment. Once the
batch is done, he moves out.

"You've got all these fumes going everywhere, so the insulation, the
carpet, everything in the house will absorb all these fumes,"
Beddingfield says. "These folks may be renters and move out. Then we
come and move in and your child gets poisoned basically because it's
there in the floor."

Or maybe the police bust the meth lab and arrest the meth cook. They
remove the child, putting the boy or girl into state custody. Nearly
half the children taken into court-ordered custody by the Henderson
County Department of Social Services last year came from homes torn
apart by meth.

The police burn the child's clothes and belongings, because they were
exposed to toxic chemicals.

A State Bureau of Investigation team comes to the scene from Raleigh.
The agents use disposable supplies that cost between $400 and $600 to
handle the toxic waste.

They spend 40 hours working on the meth lab, both on site and testing
the drug back in the state laboratories in Raleigh.

A hazardous materials team cleans up the toxic site, a job that
typically costs taxpayers between $4,000 and $10,000 for each lab.

The meth cook faces mandatory prison time under tougher penalties
adopted by the state in 2004.

Another meth lab is busted.

That's one lab. Now multiply it by 328.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin