Homeowners Become Violently Ill After Accidentally Buying Meth Lab

By Amir Khan on October 2, 2012 11:36 AM EDT

Meth
Methamphetamine crystals (Photo: Creative Commons)

Jonathan Hankins and his wife Beth found what they thought to be the perfect house for them. Being foreclosed on and priced at only $36,000, the house needed renovations but was perfect for their young family. However, the house held a secret that could have cost them their lives.

"We said, 'It needs a little bit of love, but it's got good bones,'" Jonathan Hankins told Yahoo! News. "We just had no idea that those bones were poisonous."

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Shortly after moving in, Beth developed breathing problems and Jonathan began having migraines and frequent nosebleeds. After three weeks, their 2-year-old son Ezra developed mouth sores.

"Ezra] couldn't even drink water without being in pain," Jonathan said. "Our walls were poisoning us."

They called a doctor, but before they made an appointment, their neighbor shared a piece of news -- the house used to be a meth lab. The family ordered a testing kit, which revealed levels of contamination from methamphetamines and other chemicals 80-times the legal limit.

Because the house was foreclosed on by Freddie Mac, the couple was warned that they had to screen for asbestos and lead. However, there was no warning about any drug activity in the house. The couple did not have a traditional inspection done on the house, but even if they had, it would not have made much of a differene.

"In the case of methamphetamine, it's an invisible toxin," Jonathan said.

Oregon is one of 23 states that have laws requiring sellers to disclose if a property was ever used as a drug lab. However, Freddie Mac told Yahoo! News that they had no idea that Jonathan and Beth's property was once used to cook meth.

"We certainly empathize with the situation, but we had no prior information about the way the home had been used," Brad German, spokesman for Freddie Mac, said. "If we had, of course, we would have disclosed it."

Joe Mazzuca with Meth Lab Cleanup, a company that specializes in cleaning up old meth houses, said there could be as many as 2.5 million meth-contaminated houses in the U.S.

"The signs and indicators aren't always there," he said. "You don't always see the meth residue. It's extremely dangerous stuff."

Macuzza told Yahoo! News he gets a call every five minutes. Recently, he received a call where a father purchased a meth-contaminated home, and it led to tragedy.

"He just buried his 14-year-old daughter after living in it for two years," Mazzuca said. "I could tell you stories like that for days."  

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