Pubdate: Wed, 31 May 2006
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Toxic Trash Spurs Safety Campaign

Volunteers and maintenance crews who clean up roadside litter are 
being urged to watch for potentially toxic debris discarded from 
methamphetamine labs.

Transportation agencies in several states and organizations that 
promote highway cleanups are creating brochures and DVDs to educate 
workers about dangers from materials used to make the drug, also 
known as meth or speed.

"We felt it was important to notify the public that the trash you 
might as a Good Samaritan be out picking up on the side of the road 
could possibly be dangerous to you," says Lt. John Eichkorn of the 
Kansas Highway Patrol. The agency issued a news release in March that 
warned volunteers and highway cleanup crews.

Bystanders who come across materials used to make the drug can be 
burned or their lungs damaged from inhaling fumes. Clues indicating a 
dumpsite include empty bottles attached to a rubber hose, the smell 
of ammonia and coffee filters stained red or containing a white powder residue.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that can be made using household 
chemicals and equipment and common cold remedies containing ephedrine 
or pseudoephedrine.

To combat the drug's spread, most states have passed laws restricting 
access to those medicines, including limiting how much a customer can 
buy and having buyers sign a log, says Blake Harrison of the National 
Conference of State Legislatures. President Bush in March signed a 
federal law that imposes similar restrictions.

Such legislation has dramatically reduced the number of illegal meth 
labs found inside homes, says Ashley Cradduck, spokeswoman for Gov. 
Dave Heineman of Nebraska, where a law was passed last year.

Among actions:

. Keep Nebraska Beautiful, a civic group, launched an education 
campaign last year and created a DVD on meth litter for the thousands 
of 4-H clubs, Scout troops and Rotary clubs involved in cleanup 
efforts. "We recommend to every single group to view that video 
before they go out so they know how to respond," says Jane Polson, 
the group's executive director.

. Colorado's Department of Transportation offers an instructional 
video warning that meth litter is "a deadly threat to all 
Adopt-A-Highway volunteers." The video urges group leaders to scout 
areas before volunteers begin work.

"There was a need for a higher level of attention to it because I 
don't think the crews really realized the risk they were in," says 
Stacey Stegman, a department spokeswoman. A maintenance worker was 
overwhelmed two years ago by fumes from meth materials tossed in a 
rest stop trash bin, she says. "It burned his lungs," she says. "He 
was off work for close to a month."

. Wyoming is distributing brochures on meth litter to more than 900 
organizations that volunteer to clean up a stretch of road as part of 
its Adopt-A-Highway program.

There have been few reports of people being injured after stumbling 
across meth materials, and no one reports a dip in volunteers, 
cleanup leaders say. "They haven't been scared away," Polson says. "I 
think the key is education." 
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