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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Clandestine Drug Laboratories

The Australian Crime Commission reported that 809 clandestine laboratories were detected during 2011–12 and these were being used to make drugs like speed (amphetamine type stimulants, ATS) and ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, MDMA).

Clandestine laboratories operate in a wide range of locations (such as residences, rural properties and mobile facilities) and residual contamination presents a serious risk to human and environmental health. Contamination may be in the form of solids, liquids and vapours which may be absorbed by floorings, walls, drains, ducting and furnishings. Hazardous waste may also be dumped in the local environs.

NMI's Capabilities

NMI is able to analyse for methamphetamine​, pseudoephedrine​ and MDMA at the following limits of reporting which are at, or significantly below, the investigation levels in the Australian Government's Clandestine Drug Laboratory Remediation Guidelines.

Wipes, limit of reporting (μg/wipe)​ Wipes, method detection limit (μg/wipe)​ Soil, limit of reporting (mg/kg)​ Soil, method detection limit (mg/kg)​
Methamphetamine​​ 0.5​ 0.029​ 5​ 0.12​
Pseudoephedrine​​ 50​ 3.9​ 50​ 1.2​
MDMA​​ 2​ 0.8​ 10​ 0.3​

For further information please contact, 1300 722 845 or use our on-line form

Clandestine Drug Laboratory Remediation Guidelines

The Guidelines describe the four phases of remediation: trigger for assessment, preliminary assessment and action, site assessment and remediation, and validation.

Once the laboratory site has been rendered safe for access, normally the local council is notified and information regarding suspected illicit drug activity is made available. Usually chemicals and equipment are removed by police. The property is considered potentially unfit for human habitation until investigation can determine the presence or absence of contamination.

The responsible person who attends the site must ensure that their personal safety is maintained at all times and have determined the nature and extent of potential hazards likely to arise with the site inspection. A suitably qualified occupational hygienist or environmental consultant may be engaged to assist with site assessment and remediation.

The responsible person should be aware of the range of chemicals that may be encountered such as precursors, reagents and solvents used to conduct the synthetic phase and also waste products from the cooking process.

Chemical contamination may be residual or transient, such as airborne contaminants. Potential hazards may include precursor chemicals (eg pseudoephedrine), reagents and catalysts (such as solvents and metals), reaction mixtures, final drug products and by-products.

A site assessment should involve both indoor and outdoor areas. A sampling and analysis plan is devised to determine the existence and extent of any contamination and testing should primarily be targeted at areas where contamination is most likely.

Samples may be taken from non-porous surfaces inside a building using a wipe or swab and from soil, surface water and groundwater outside the building. Refer to the Guidelines for details of how to design a sampling plan.

After remediation the site again needs to be sampled to validate that decontamination procedures have been effective in respect of the investigation levels in the Guidelines.