New standard on the testing and remediation of methamphetamine-contaminated properties — progress update

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The committee that is developing the new standard (NZS 8510) held its third meeting on 23 August 2016 in Wellington. The committee heard from two guest presenters, considered comments on the first working draft of the standard, and discussed further developments on key parts of the standard being prepared by the five working groups of the committee.

Guest presenters

Two guest presenters were invited to attend the committee meeting.

The first presenter, Ann-louise Anderson, is Director of InScience. Ann-louise has extensive experience in the area of drug testing and has been involved in two Australian/New Zealand joint standards committees (CH-036 and CH-039) that developed AS/NZS 4308:2008 Procedures for specimen collection and the detection and quantitation of drugs of abuse in urine, and AS 4760:2006 Procedures for specimen collection and the detection and quantitation of drugs in oral fluid. Ann-louise has also been involved in developing NZQA unit standards, and training drug testers. She provided valuable insights into the pros and cons of on-site screening (qualitative) methods, as well as confirmation or detailed (quantitative) test methods, and emphasised the need to understand the purpose and limitations of each method. Ann-louise later contributed to discussions on sampling and testing protocols that are still being developed by one of the working groups.

The second presenter, Dr Kathryn Stokes, is a materials scientist from BRANZ. Kathryn highlighted issues around meth contamination of building materials. While research in this area is lacking and inconclusive, Kathryn highlighted some aspects that would be useful for researchers to focus on. These included; validation and efficacy data on testing methods, interaction and resilience of building materials to meth contamination, and the effectiveness of easy clean or encapsulation based paints (are some coatings more effective than others?). Kathryn recognised the urgent need to develop a standard on remediation, compared to the time needed to undertake research on building materials. However, it was agreed that the findings of any future research would be useful for informing any updates or revisions of the standard. 

Further progress on the draft standard

The committee continued to discuss the contents of the draft so far. The committee’s five working groups reported back on key parts of the standard that they have been working on, and exchanged ideas among the working groups to ensure that all parts of the standards will fit together. The parts include those dealing with screening, sampling and testing of properties for meth contamination, methods of decontamination and remediation, and post-remediation testing to ensure that properties can be verified as safe to re-occupy.

Matters still under discussion and development include:

  • identifying reliable and affordable methods of testing for meth contamination
  • ensuring that test kits for initial screening purposes (to determine whether or not meth contamination is present) are validated as reliable by independent third parties
  • recommending that those involved in testing properties should be properly trained, qualified, and recognised as competent in sampling and testing procedures
  • avoiding inconsistent test results by ensuring that sampling and testing follow correct procedures
  • avoiding conflicts of interest by ensuring that testing (both before and after decontamination) is carried out by operators who are independent of those who decontaminate properties
  • specifying methods of sample collection that ensures samples accurately represent the presence and extent of any meth contamination of the property, or parts of it
  • recognising that actions (including sampling, testing and decontamination procedures) that follow the discovery of a property used as a meth lab will differ from actions necessary on a property where meth use only is evident or suspected. The guiding principle is to minimise people’s exposure to harm, whether the risks of harm arise from meth contamination itself or the chemicals used to make meth (in the case of a meth lab)
  • encouraging ‘best practice’ in the decontamination and remediation of affected properties, including appropriate health and safety practices
  • certifying that properties have been properly decontaminated and tested to show that they are safe to occupy
  • establishing procedures that address situations such as the detection of other hazardous materials, including asbestos, during the remediation process.

Next steps

The committee meets again on 27 September 2016 to review the additional work being undertaken by working groups to further develop key parts of the draft standard.

A further meeting planned for 1 November 2016 will consider the recommendations of a toxicologist who has been commissioned by the Ministry of Health to review the current Ministry of Health guideline values and determine whether any changes are needed based on updated research since 2010.

When all recommendations have been incorporated into a draft standard, it will be made available for public comment for a period of 2 months. If you wish to be advised when the draft standard becomes available for comment, please register for Touchstone or Keep-me-up-to-date.

Read the Qs and As on the standard.

Published in building.