Q&As on NZS 8510:2017 Testing and decontamination of methamphetamine-contaminated properties 

What is the purpose of the standard?

The standard addresses the need for guidelines on methodologies, procedures, and other supporting material required to ensure a safe, consistent and effective approach to managing the sampling, testing and decontamination of affected properties.

More specifically, the standard provides guidance on methodologies, procedures, and performance criteria aimed at ensuring the methods of testing properties for the presence of methamphetamine provide reliable results, and the decontamination of contaminated properties is effective, reduces harm, and enables properties to be safely reoccupied.

The standard will contribute to the reduction of risks to the health and safety of occupants and others who may be exposed to methamphetamine contamination. Application of the standard will provide assurance that activities such as screening, sampling, testing, assessing, and decontamination of contaminated properties, and disposal of their contents, are carried out in accordance with good practice.

What does the standard include?

The standard will provide guidance on testing properties for contamination as well as methods to assess and deal with risks to health, safety, and the environment from methamphetamine-contaminated material.

It lays out good practice procedures for decontamination of properties to acceptable levels, as well as disposal of materials that cannot be decontaminated.

Information that supports verification processes is included, which provides assurance that testing and decontamination of properties, and disposal of contaminated materials have been effective. 

Who developed the standard?

The standard was developed by a standards development committee of 21 representatives, under the provisions set out in the Standards and Accreditation Act 2015, by which all New Zealand standards must be developed. Standards New Zealand engaged with relevant organisations to nominate representatives to appoint to a standards development committee.

The committee included representatives from sampling and testing operators, decontamination contractors, property investment and property management interests, the insurance sector, local authorities, public health authorities, and laboratories. Central government was represented on the committee by officials from the Ministry of Health, Ministry for the Environment and Housing New Zealand Corporation. Local government was represented by officials from Auckland Council, Hutt City Council, and Local Government New Zealand.

The committee was approved by the Standards Approval Board under the Standards and Accreditation Act 2015. The committee met nine times between June 2016 and May 2017. 

How was the standard developed?

The development of the standard followed Standards New Zealand’s robust process in compliance with the provisions of the Standards and Accreditation Act 2015, and aligned with international practice.

The content of the standard was developed by the standards development committee, comprising of 21 relevant industry and government experts. The committee began work on the standard in June 2016.

The first draft of the standard developed by the committee was open for public consultation for two months between December 2016 and February 2017. The standard received high levels of engagement from the public, with 1,269 comments received, all of which were considered by the committee.

The standard then went to the ballot stage where all 21 committee members voted on the standard being passed. Voting reached the required level of consensus on the final standard in the second ballot.

The final standard was then approved by the Standards Approval Board on 22 June 2017, again in line with the Standards and Accreditation Act 2015. 

Why was the standard necessary?

Prior to this standard being developed, there were no guidelines covering screening, sampling, testing and decontamination of properties contaminated by methamphetamine use. Previous guidelines published by the Ministry of Health in 2010 dealt in particular with clandestine laboratories and the hazardous chemicals involved in the manufacture of methamphetamine, but did not address the contamination of properties by the use (such as smoking) of methamphetamine.

The standard provides good practice guidelines on the testing and decontamination to ensure a safe environment for occupants of a property that was previously used for the making of or use of methamphetamine. 

Who will use the standard?

The standard will be used by methamphetamine sampling, testing, and clean-up/decontamination companies; laboratories that analyse samples taken from methamphetamine-contaminated properties; health, safety, and environmental regulators; property owners, managers, and insurers.

Those who use the standard will be following procedures that have been developed by experts in their fields. 

What does the standard say about clean-up levels?

The standard sets maximum acceptable levels of methamphetamine to guide decisions on decontamination. The level for high-use areas, such as bedrooms, living areas, kitchens, bathrooms, laundries and shed/garages is 1.5 micrograms per 100 cm2 (1.5 micrograms of methamphetamine per 100 square centimetres of surfaces sampled). For limited-use areas, such as crawl spaces likely to be accessed only by adults for short periods of time, the level is 3.8 micrograms per 100 cm2.

After seeking expert advice on exposure risk from Environmental Science and Research (ESR), and the Ministry of Health, as well as reviewing a large number of public comments on a draft of the standard, the committee agreed on the above levels as maximum acceptable levels after decontamination of an affected property.

Further information and a copy of the ESR report, commissioned by the Ministry of Health can be found here (external link)

The standard introduces a two-stage process for sampling and testing for the presence of methamphetamine. This involves an initial screening assessment stage to determine if methamphetamine is present above the limits in the standard, and a detailed assessment stage to quantify the level and extent of methamphetamine contamination in a property. 

Do these clean-up levels apply to vehicles as well?

A property as defined by the standard includes but is not limited to dwellings (including ancillary buildings such as sheds and garages), vehicles, boats, caravans, mobile homes, and other structures where people may be present for extended periods of time, such as workplaces, hotels, motels and storage facilities. Accordingly, the standard’s maximum acceptable levels of methamphetamine apply to this extended range of properties, including vehicles. 

Is the standard legally enforceable?

The standard is available for people to use as a guide to testing and decontamination of affected properties. It aims to ensure consistency, reliability, and competency in dealing with methamphetamine-contaminated properties, and to reduce people’s exposure to harm.

The standard is essentially a good practice guide. It can only be legally enforceable if it is cited in an Act or Regulation. NZS 8510 is currently not cited in any Acts or Regulations.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No.2), introduced to Parliament on 23 May 2017, makes provision for managing methamphetamine contamination in rental properties. The Bill proposes to enable decontamination levels specified in NZS 8510 to be legally recognised and enforceable before the Tenancy Tribunal.

There is also the possibility that territorial authorities (city and district councils) may make reference to NZS 8510 when setting requirements on properties that are subject to cleansing orders under the Health Act 1956, or LIM (Land Information Memorandum) reports under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

How was the development of the standard funded?

Funding to develop the standard was granted in 2015 from the proceeds of crime fund under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009, administered by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

Is there a cost for the standard?

Standards New Zealand operates on a cost-recovery basis, which is consistent with the Standards and Accreditation Act 2015. The costs of developing and reviewing all standards are recovered by Standards New Zealand from agencies or organisations which have an interest in commissioning the standard. Standards New Zealand also charges a fee for users to access standards.

Access to this standard has been sponsored by agencies that have an interest in making the standard freely accessible. These agencies identified the importance of enabling staff of local councils, industry, landlords and the public to access a PDF copy of standard free online.

The standard will be accessible at no cost for one year and can be accessed on the Standards New Zealand website 

When does the standard come into effect?

New Zealand standards come into effect on the day they are published. NZS 8510 was published on 29 June 2017, and can be accessed through the Standards New Zealand website: www.standards.govt.nz (external link)  

Is there a lead-in time for both testing and decontamination operators to adjust to the requirements of NZS 8510?

The uptake of New Zealand standards is voluntary, unless they are cited in legislation. There is no specific lead-in time to adjust to NZS 8510. The standard acknowledges that some aspects such as training or accreditation of operators will take time to set up and implement. Other requirements, such as recommended decontamination levels, can be applied immediately.

Where can I get more information about the process involved in becoming an accredited sampler?

Enquiries about accreditation should be directed to International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ)

Contact details are: IANZ, Private Bag 28908, Remuera, Auckland 1541. Telephone +64 9 525 6655. Email enquiries: NZS8510.accreditation@ianz.govt.nz

Where do I get more information about validation of screening test methods?

Independent validation of methamphetamine screening test methods and technologies is undertaken by ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd), Mt Albert Science Centre, Auckland.

Contact details are: ESR, Private Bag 92021, Auckland 1142. Telephone +64 9 815 3949. Web address: www.esr.cri.nz (external link)  

Are there any approved training courses for screening samplers or decontamination operators?

The standard clearly signals the need for upskilling in some areas, and it is anticipated that providers of training programmes will respond by establishing appropriate courses and recognised qualifications for both samplers and decontamination operators.

For example, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has some existing unit standards for people in the cleaning industry who specialise in clandestine methamphetamine laboratory clean-up and remediation operations: see unit standards 26568 (external link)  and 26569 (external link)

For more information about the NZQA see: www.nzqa.govt.nz (external link)

Is a garage or shed regarded as a ‘limited-use area’ that only needs to be decontaminated to a level of 3.8µg/100cm2?

No.

A ‘limited-use area’ is defined in the standard as an area, such as a crawl space, accessed only by adults and for short periods of time. Limited-use areas have a higher allowable level of methamphetamine because they are difficult to access and unlikely to be accessed by children, so the likelihood of exposure is low. Garages, sheds, caravans and vehicles are ‘high-use areas’ for the purposes of decontamination.

What products can be used to clean a methamphetamine-contaminated property?

While the standard does not prescribe particular cleaning products to use, it does require, among other things, that cleaning products must be safe to use and not give rise to other hazards such as harmful reaction by-products if the product contains ammonia or a strong oxidising agent (see 4.3.7.2). Cleaning products must also be effective in removing methamphetamine contamination to at least the limits in the standard, otherwise a clearance certificate cannot be issued for the property. To comply with the standard, evidence showing that a cleaning product is effective and safe to use must be attached to the decontamination scope of work (see 4.3.2). Cleaning product manufacturers should be able to provide information on the safety and effectiveness of their products, along with clear instructions on use, and any health and safety measures that need to be followed both during and after decontamination of a property. Alternatively, an independent, accredited laboratory could be commissioned to confirm whether a particular product meets its claim to be safe to use and effective in treating methamphetamine contaminated surfaces.

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