The University of Arizona

Clandestine Labs and Forms of Methamphetamine
Clandestine Drug Labs:
Damage Caused by Clandestine Labs

Many hazardous chemicals are used to produce methamphetamine.  These chemicals are highly volatile and can ignite or explode when mixed or stored improperly.[1]  There are substantial risks of explosions, fires, chemical burns, and toxic fume inhalation in clandestine labs.  The risks of chemical exposure are not only to those who mix the chemicals (also called cooks or cookers), but also to anyone in the neighboring area, emergency responders, hazardous material clean-up crews, and future property occupants.[1,2]  One out of five or six labs discovered in the U.S. is due to an explosion or fire.[2]

Inhaling chemical vapors and gases released from MA production may cause [1]:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Intoxication
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Chemical pneumonitis

Chemicals can also be ingested through contaminated food, beverages, or direct exposure to clandestine labs.  Contact can lead to fatal poisoning, internal chemical burns, damage to organ function, and harm to neurological and immunologic functioning.[1]


For every pound of MA that is manufactured, five to six pounds of hazardous waste is produced.  This waste is usually dumped into the ground, sewers, or streams and rivers, thus resulting in the contamination of soil and water supplies.  Residual contamination can last for years; therefore more research is needed to understand the long term environmental effects of such toxic dumping.[2]

Child Endangerment

Findings suggest that children are commonly exposed to hazards in clandestine labs.  There have been children found who have traces of chemicals or drugs in their system, suffer from burns to their lungs or skin, and who have been badly neglected or abused by parents that are under the influence or illicit drugs.[2]



  • (1) National Drug Intelligence Center. Methamphetamine Laboratory Identification and Hazards. Johnstown, PA: NDIC; 2007.
  • (2) Scott MS. Clandestine Drug Labs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice; 2002 Mar 19. Report No.: 16.