- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

Accidents involving the illicit production and distribution of methamphetamines are more dangerous than other hazardous material spills, with police officers being the most common victims, according to a new federal report.

Today’s issue of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report says meth is a “powerfully addictive stimulant” that “generally is considered the fastest-growing illicit drug in the United States.”

“This report illustrates the dangers associated with illicit meth laboratories. Substances used in these laboratories are corrosive, explosive, flammable and toxic, and can cause fires, explosions, and other uncontrolled reactions.

“An estimated 20 to 30 percent of known meth laboratories are discovered because of fires and explosions,” according to an editorial accompanying the report.

Anhydrous ammonia, which can cause immediate danger to life, is a key ingredient in illicit meth production.

The findings were based on data reported to the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) from 16 state health departments from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 30, 2004.

The agency oversees the collection and analysis of data about the public-health consequences, such as deaths, injuries and required evacuations, resulting from “acute hazardous substance release events.”

The study compared the medical outcomes of incidents associated with the production, transport and handling of meth with those that occurred as a result of “nonmeth events,” such as the release of railroad tanker fuel or release of toxic chemicals from labs or trucking accidents.

“By far, meth lab events are very hazardous,” said Maureen Orr, an epidemiologist with ATSDR and coordinator of its toxic surveillance.

During the four-year study period, the 1,791 “meth events” in the nation represented only 4 percent of the more than 40,300 incidents reported to ATSDR.

But the number of meth events rose sharply during the study period, from 184 in 2000 to 320 during the first six months of 2004. Eighty-six percent of meth-related chemical releases occurred in households.

“Meth events consistently had a higher percentage of persons with injuries than did non-meth events. Of the 1,791 meth events, 558 (31 percent) resulted in a total of 947 injured persons,” the report says.

By contrast, the 2,818 nonmeth incidents “with victims” accounted for only 7.3 percent of the more than 38,500 nonmeth incidents.

In meth events, the persons most often injured were police officers (56 percent) and members of the public (33 percent), the study shows.

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