What you need to know about meth

The topic of methamphetamine contamination has become even more interesting with the release of the Gluckman report “Methamphetamine Contamination in Residential Properties”.  

How the report is interpreted by property professionals will differ depending on whether a property is being purchased, sold or rented.



The Gluckman report challenges Standards New Zealand’s NZS 8510:2017, which has a contamination level of 1.5mg/100cm2. Gluckman concludes that: 

•    Currently, there’s no evidence that methamphetamine levels that typically result from third-hand exposure to smoking residues on household surfaces can elicit an adverse health effect.

•    Toxicity assessments and exposure dose models have deliberately adopted very conservative assumptions with large safety margins built in.

•    These factors indicate that methamphetamine levels that exceed NZS 8510:2017 clean up standard of 1.5mcg per 100cm2 should not be regarded as signalling a health risk. Exposure to levels below 15mcg per 100cm2 would be highly unlikely to give rise to any adverse effects. 

•    As the risk of encountering methamphetamine on residential surfaces at levels that might cause harm is extremely low, testing is not warranted in most cases. Remediation according to the NZS 8510:2017 standard is appropriate only for identified former meth labs and properties where excessive methamphetamine use has been determined (as indicated by high levels of methamphetamine contamination). 

Following the Gluckman report and its recommendations, Housing New Zealand and the REA established new contamination levels at the new level of 15mcg being 10 times higher than NZS 8510:2017.

This has enabled many Housing New Zealand properties that were previously deemed uninhabitable to go back into the social housing rental pool.  


Real Estate Authority guidelines

The REA have provided information and guidelines for real estate agents selling properties. These are as follows:

•    A property that tests below 15 micrograms per 100cm2 is considered safe to live in, with no adverse health effects.

•    The report said there was little reason to test a property for methamphetamine contamination unless there was a strong suspicion that it had been used for methamphetamine production or there had been very heavy use.

•    The report found no evidence of adverse health effects from third-hand exposure to methamphetamine smoke residue on household surfaces below 15 micrograms per 100cm2. 

•    Methamphetamine that’s inhaled or absorbed through the skin leaves the body within about a day. Residue levels on household surfaces also diminish over time, so a person is not exposed to a constant dose every day.

•    The level of 15 micrograms per 100cm2 still includes a large safety buffer.

•    If clients have questions about methamphetamine contamination, direct them to the information on settled.govt.nz.

•    The report also found that there was little need to test for methamphetamine contamination unless there was strong suspicion, or information from police or forensic experts, that a property had been the site of production or heavy use of methamphetamine.

•    If a vendor or prospective buyer wants a property to be tested, it’s important for the real estate agent to make them aware that the methamphetamine testing industry is not currently regulated in New Zealand. The report notes that composite field testing, where multiple samples taken throughout a property are combined into a single sample, can lead to false impressions of high levels of contamination. This type of testing is not recommended.

•    Remediation back to 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2 is only required where the property was used for methamphetamine manufacture involving solvents and other toxic chemicals, as the methamphetamine reading is used as the marker for these other toxic chemicals. These chemicals are not usually used in methamphetamine production now. 

•    Remediation to below 15 micrograms per 100cm2 is required for a property where only methamphetamine use took place. 


Information for property managers

For property management professionals, it appears NZS 8510:2017 remains in force and will do so until the Government establishes new official standards.

Recent decisions of the Tenancy Tribunal indicate that Gluckman’s far higher standard is yet to be adopted. In this regard, the current treatment of a property that is 1.5mcg per 100cm2 or over is likely to be deemed uninhabitable by the Tenancy Tribunal. 

Property Managers should continue to highly recommend to owners to conduct baseline tests at the start of a tenancy and have wording in the tenancy agreement enabling testing during the tenancy if there are reasonable grounds to believe that contamination may have occurred as well as testing to be conducted at the end of the tenancy.

REINZ has also stated that “members may wish to adopt a cautious approach and continue to use the NZ Standard level of 1.5mcg/100cm2 as the benchmark”.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has advised that regulations regarding levels, testing and decontamination processes will be made clear later this year.  

The full Gluckman report can be found here.

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