Sunday, June 19, 2016
Mike Butler: Scientist says P-risk over-hyped
Dr Kim is a senior lecturer in environmental chemistry at Massey University.
Two years ago, a request under the Official Information Act showed no recorded illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths resulting from methamphetamine contamination or fires from P labs. (See http://breakingviewsnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/05/mike-butler-p-lab-risk-vastly.html)
In an interview on Fair Go this week, Dr Kim pointed out that the accepted New Zealand benchmark for remediation, 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres, was 24 times lower than "the lowest level that could you could plausibly have a health risk". (2)
This benchmark was based on levels in a meth lab, not on houses where smoking had occurred.
This means if a test for 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres turns up positive, a landlord is wasting time and money cleaning where there is no plausible health risk.
That guideline clean-up level is tiny – Fair Go compared it to cutting a grain of salt into a thousand pieces, dissolving one of those pieces in a drop of water, and spraying that drop over an area the size of half an envelope.
When it dries out, the residue is the same amount of methamphetamine that should trigger a clean-up.
Paranoia has spread in the absence of robust guidelines and the scammers are raking it in.
Companies are charging hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to test for traces of methamphetamine and tens of thousands to clean it up – tearing out gib, replacing insulation and curtains, tossing out perfectly good stoves.
The Ministry of Health has admitted there is no guidance on whether P at those trace levels actually poses a risk to human health. (3)
The failure of one government department to state accurately the level of harm caused by either a clan lab or by tenants smoking P in a rental property has led to stupid decisions by other government departments.
About 400 Housing NZ properties around the country were declared uninhabitable as a result of alleged P contamination and were in various stages of testing and remediation, according to HNZ's chief operating officer Paul Commons.
Dr Kim said he peer reviewed the testing guidelines six years ago when concern was just emerging over the explosion of P labs and councils wanted guidance on testing. "Somehow it's slipped sideways whereas it's now being used to test for cases where there's no clear evidence of a laboratory”, he said. (4)
1. Meth residues not the big worry, Stuff, June 15, 2016. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/81102711/meth-residues-not-the-big-health-worry-as-people-fear-scientist-nick-kim
2. The P properties. Fair Go, June 15, 2016. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/81102711/meth-residues-not-the-big-health-worry-as-people-fear-scientist-nick-kim
3. The P properties. Fair Go, June 15, 2016. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/81102711/meth-residues-not-the-big-health-worry-as-people-fear-scientist-nick-kim
4. Meth residues not the big worry, Stuff, June 15, 2016. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/81102711/meth-residues-not-the-big-health-worry-as-people-fear-scientist-nick-kim
at 8:02 AM