Clandestine laboratories—commonly referred to as clan labs—are makeshift laboratories, operated covertly with improvised materials and methods usually for the manufacture illicit drugs or their precursors.
These laboratories are routinely found in residential premises where contamination presents a health risk to occupants. The detection rate has decreased in the current reporting period and for the first time Queensland was not responsible for the highest number of detections nationally.
Some of the compounds produced, whilst toxic e.g. phosphine gas, are transient in nature and do not endure much past the completion of the manufacturing process. Other compounds such as bases and alkali chemicals can endure. Acute exposure to high concentrations or chronic exposure to residual concentrations of these enduring chemicals can presents a health risk.
Unfortunately, tests for many of the enduring or manufacturing precursor chemicals are not readily available. Tests for amphetamine type substances (ATS) however are available. The test comprises an alcohol swab of a100sq.cm areas on site followed by gas chromatograph/mass spectrometry analysis of residues collected with the swab.
The detection of amphetamine type stimulants is used to inform the possible use of the premises as a clandestine laboratory and hence the level of risk posed by associated chemical contaminants. The amount of methamphetamine detected is relevant in determining whether the premises was used as a clan lab or is simply a premises where drug use occurred.
The Clandestine Drug Laboratory Remediation Guidelines offer advice on determining the level of risk and actions that can be taken. It is worth noting that the Guidelines are just that – Guidelines, much like an Australian Standard, they adopt levels above which remediation should occur if the property was used as a clandestine drug laboratory.
The levels are based on potential risk from manufacturing chemicals and are set with a safety factor such that even the most sensitive populations (e.g.infants and toddlers) should not experience health effects while concentrationsremain below the set level. The concentration for methamphetamine and associated ATS is set at .5 μg /100cm2 (micrograms/100cm2).