Meth Lab Explosion in Condo Highlights Dangers

June 2016

Meth labs in high-rise residential buildings are a building-wide danger.

This danger became real when an explosion occurred in a rented 6th floor Liberty Village condo suite on November 17, 2014. Windows and elevator doors were blown out. The elevator was knocked to the ground. There was a panic within the building as residents, including children and pets, ran outside.

Firefighters arrived to find a fire in the condo suite.

The condo suite was being used as a meth lab. One individual pleaded guilty to eight charges. The explosion occurred during the final stages of preparing a batch of crystal meth. The charged individual suffered burns to their hands and face. Fortunately, no other individuals were injured.

The condo suite was destroyed. Owners were required to pay a $10,000 deductible to repair damaged suites in the building. It was unclear if insurance covered the remaining costs. Total damage to suites and common areas was in excess of $1 million.

Meth is a drug manufactured using chemicals that can be dangerous to building occupants. Highly toxic chemicals and fumes, which are flammable, can travel from their source to neighbouring suites. Warning signs include odours similar to cat urine, vinegar or ammonia. Residents or management may become aware of frequent visitors for short periods. Within the suite windows may be covered with plastic, foil or blacked out.

Countertops, floors or walls may have yellow or red staining. Items found in the trash may include drain cleaner, paint thinner or lighter fluid packaging. Dead or dying vegetation, or discoloured soil, may be the result of discarded chemicals.

Improper handling of these chemicals can result in explosion or fire.

In a single family dwelling, danger from a meth lab is likely limited to the occupants of the house. In a high-rise condo building, residents of other suites in the building are at risk. A fire may displace many people. Chemicals can travel via air ducts to other suites. Damage to common areas can impact on hundreds of people. The affected area is larger and clean-up is costlier.

Symptoms of exposure to meth include nausea, dizziness or fatigue, headaches, respiratory problems or burns.

Hazardous waste must be disposed. Residue of a meth lab can infiltrate neighbouring suites and common areas. Cleanup can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Proper clean-up of a meth lab requires specialized expertise. Specialists must identify what chemicals are present and what must be done to clean up. They must dispose of hazardous materials which may have been absorbed into carpets, walls and traveled through air vents or plumbing. A qualified contractor must be employed to remove these hazardous materials.