Could your new house have a history of “Breaking Bad?” Plus: 10 strange locations for cooking meth

BY Elizabeth Shell  September 29, 2013 at 12:25 PM EST

Digital Vision Collection
Photo by Phillip Spears/Getty Images

The final episode of “Breaking Bad” is Sunday, and that inspired us to research meth labs. It turns out, you don’t want to be where a meth lab has been.

The process of making methamphetamine is absolutely hazardous: producing just one pound of it results in five to seven pounds of toxic waste. Nothing escapes contamination from home-cooked meth — the waste poisons the air and infiltrates every inch of the room, from furniture to clothing to carpet to drapes to air ducts.
It’s dangerous to the meth cook too, as the chemicals used are lethal, flammable and explosive.

Consider the effect meth has on users and, all in all, it’s best to stay away.

But that might be more difficult than it sounds — meth labs aren’t just a pestilence of rural or low-income areas. Meth labs can exist just about everywhere, from a backpack a guy wears while cycling down a street in Pittsburgh to an affluent neighborhood in the nation’s capital.

“There is a misconception that these houses are crack houses. They are absolutely not. A meth house in Kentucky recently went on the market for $700,000 dollars,” Dawn Turner, who started methlabhomes.com, a resource site for people who have unknowingly purchased a former meth lab house, told Science Line.

If you’re looking to buy a home, you should do your own research before signing on the dotted line. In most states, sellers are not legally required to disclose clandestine meth lab activity, and there are many stories of new homeowners getting terribly ill, prompting them to investigate and discover their home’s hidden history.

According to a report in Scientific American, professional meth house cleanup contractors estimate that about 90 percent of meth houses are never uncovered, and their tenants will likely never know about their homes’ toxicity.

Scripps Howard News Service has an interactive map of state laws regarding the disclosure of meth contamination to prospective home and car buyers, and prospective hotel and apartment renters. Based on the 2012 data, 28 states require home sellers or real estate agents to tell buyers of previous meth contamination. 17 states mandate landlords tell tenants, and 14 states make hotels disclose contamination. Car sellers in 42 states do not have to tell buyers about possible meth residue.


Screenshot of the Scripps Howard News Service map.

Here’s a list of some of the surprising places that have been used to cook meth:

  • A backpack
    Columbus police stopped a bicyclist for a traffic violation but ended up finding an active meth lab in the driver’s back pack. The cyclist ran stop sign, didn’t have a rear reflector, and was carrying a passenger on his handlebars.

  • Hotel rooms
    *Hotels are popular locations for meth labs, since they can be easily abandoned.
    This bust in Lacrosse Wisconsin was so hazardous, the local police called in a team of specialists from the Drug Enforcement Administration from Chicago to process the hazardous and toxic chemicals. Among the materials confiscated from the room was a gas mask.*

  • Recreational Vehicles
    A large RV was Walter and Jesse’s first successful meth lab on “Breaking Bad.” Clandestine methamphetamine drug labs are considered so dangerous by law enforcement agencies that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has developed a seven step process — planning, entry, assessment, deactivation, processing, exit and follow-up — for assessing and dismantling such labs.

  • A golf course Porta-Potty
    Staffers noticed strange sports drink bottles with chemicals inside a golf course porta-potty in Oklahoma and called police. Officers arrived and soon realized someone had been inside making meth using the “shake and bake” method.

  • A Wal-Mart parking lot
    Police in Pennsylvania discovered a lab while investigating a hit-and-run crash in a Wal-Mart store’s parking lot. The meth lab was located inside a Ford Windstar van. “An area outside the food court entrance to the store was marked off with yellow police tape as state police troopers and technicians removed the hazardous materials from inside the van.”

  • A purse
    [A woman caught shoplifting was discovered to have] a 20 ounce soda bottle in her purse that was cooking meth while she was in the holding room in a St. Louis county Wal-Mart. Because the chemical mixture used to cook meth is known to explode, the store was immediately evacuated.

  • A school playground
    In 2012, A teacher at a Murfreesboro, Tenn. elementary school found a plastic bottle and some tubing on the school playground. Authorities identified it as a mobile meth lab. “Meth labs are scary enough, but the fact that someone would bring one on a school campus is a dangerous situation,” Murfreesboro Police Sgt. Kyle Evans told the local news channel WSMV.

  • A nursing home
    A portable meth lab exploded inside a nursing home in Ohio, killing one man. “Shake-and-bake” is a fast but highly combustible way of making meth that involves mixing the ingredients together in a single bottle or container and then shaking it. Meth heads who use the “shake-and-bake” method often end up with a few grams of meth — or a trip to the local burn ward.

  • A day care
    A 4-year old attending a daycare in Davenport, Iowa tested positive for meth, after complaining of headaches, trouble sleeping and other ailments. This lead authorities to investigate the child’s daycare provider, who was found to be actively cooking meth in the same house where the children played. The daycare provider was sentenced to ten years behind bars.

  • A church kitchen
    The congregation of a small church, located 40 miles southwest of Fargo, North Dakota were surprised to find their house of worship filled with sherif’s deputies on a Sunday in 2004. “There have been active methamphetamine labs in the back seats of cars, bathtubs and abandoned barns,” [a law enforcement officer] told the Star-Tribune, “but nobody I’ve talked to has ever heard of a meth lab in a church.”

  • Behind a car wash
    Police found a large Meth Lab still smoking in the dumpster at the rear of the car wash.