PROVO, Utah (AP) — A hazmat suit and respirator is what Jared Herbert typically wears to work. If passersby ask what he is working on, he tells them he’s just cleaning a house. Or taking care of residential chemical contamination.
He never gives the real reason why his cleaning crew travels in unmarked vans to rip out the carpet, scrub air ducts, or load furniture into a dumpster.
“We keep it as discreet as we can,” he explained. “You want to know that someone has meth in your neighborhood, but you also don’t want to know, you know?”
Herbert works as a foreman for Meth Mob, a local Provo decontamination company focused on cleaning “meth houses.” He travels across the state to clean all kinds of houses that report having high measures of meth contamination. His crew and asbestos-cleaning crews wear the same garb.
“I’ve done really run-down, beat-up houses in beat-up neighborhoods but then I’ve done multimillion-dollar homes that have meth,” Herbert said. “I hate to say it but yes, it’s everywhere.”
Ann Atkin, the owner of Meth Mob, said her company cleans more than 100 houses every year. Every month has been busier than the previous month in the two years the company has been in business.
“I don’t want this to be a fear factor,” she said. “We’ve tested lots of homes without meth, but we’ve also tested a lot that has.”
THE DANGERS AND DAMAGE OF METH
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant, one that can be smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injected.
The drug comes as a pill or a powder, though Crystal meth for sale looks like glass or shiny bluish white rocks.
Users who smoke or inject meth report feeling a brief and intense rush while ingesting or snorting produces a long-lasting high, according to information from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Both effects release dopamine into the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure. It’s sometimes used for medical treatment of attention deficit disorder or obesity.
Small amounts create increased wakefulness, decreased appetite, and violent behavior, along with rapid and irregular heart rate, increased blood pressure, and hyperthermia.
High doses can elevate body temperature to lethal levels or cause cardiovascular collapse, extreme anorexia, dental problems, and memory loss. Overdosing causes death from heart attacks or organ problems generated by overheating.
To home inspector Jared Fenn, meth is a huge issue that no one seems to talk about.
“It’s a much bigger problem than people want to admit or realize,” he said. “The problem here in Utah County is that it’s ‘Happy Valley.’ Nothing goes wrong here and everybody’s happy. But meth is a huge problem.”
He and his team in Orem work as home inspectors with the national franchise Pillar to Post. They inspect homes in Utah, Sanpete, Juab, Carbon, Emery, Sevier, and Millard counties, often working with home buyers worried about buying a meth-contaminated house.
Inspecting a residence for meth contamination is an extra service his business provides in addition to regular home inspections, much like radon or mold screening.
“It’s the first step in getting that peace of mind when you’re buying a property,” he explained.
But when it comes to meth contamination, “there’s really nothing that you can look for.”
“Of the houses we’ve had test positive, half of them were ones we never would’ve suspected,” Fenn said.
A common misconception is that only cooking meth causes contamination. But traces of meth get into the carpet and the walls and the air ducts whenever users smoke in their homes.
In 2004, the Utah Health Department reported 107 clandestine meth labs in Utah. Ten years later, there was only one.