Clandestine drug laboratories

Clandestine drug laboratories (clan labs) are sites where illegal drugs, particularly methamphetamine (meth, ice) are secretly manufactured using improvised materials and methods.

Such labs are detected on a regular basis by the Western Australian Police Force and notified to Department of Health (DOH) for assessment of the need for action. 

The starting materials and resulting drugs and waste can be harmful to human health. Of special concern are the invisible and persistent drug residues, such as meth, on many of the surfaces throughout the property.

Contamination from meth labs is normally much more dangerous than that remaining from smoking meth, although the latter contamination is far more common. It can be difficult to distinguish between both types of contamination that resulting from manufacture normally requires a higher level of remediation. 

Guidelines

DOH and partner agencies have developed the following guidance on how to notify and clean-up contamination (updated in January 2020) Guidelines for notification and risk management after detection of a clandestine drug laboratory (PDF 919KB) . Normally any lab would be assumed to be Tier 1 (<5gm Nazi-Birch meth production process) rather than Tier 2 (larger scale or other production methods or drugs), unless there is evidence of the latter. Tier 1 labs normally can be more easily remediated than Tier 2. In some cases, application of the Guidelines may be mandatory.  

These Guidelines only apply where there is evidence of a clan lab operation at a property, such as:

  • A notification of a lab by a responsible agency such as the WA Police, Department of Health or local government authorities (LGA)
  • The presence of equipment normally associated with a lab such as unusual collections of chemicals, containers with tubing, dumped chemical waste material, or stained surfaces
  • High level of meth contamination on surfaces such as above 6-10ug/100cm2 for a swab sample or;
  • Advice from someone who has reliable information about the property
  • Advice from someone who has reliable information about the property

More often meth contamination is due to smoking meth. Therefore, if there is no suspicion or evidence of clan lab operation at a property then contamination should be presumed to be from smoking meth and be managed as per guidance on the DOH Illicit drug and meth smoke houses

Contamination service providers

The Guidelines contain a list of companies qualified for testing and remediating chemical residues (PDF 643KB). These companies have been determined by DOH to be suitable to undertake work outlined by the Guidelines. The DOH strongly recommends that these companies be used, especially since other providers may be unqualified and/or do unsatisfactory work. 

Resources

The following resources may be useful in assessing and managing clan labs: 

Consumer information

More information

Environmental Health Directorate

Last reviewed: 11-06-2021
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Environmental Health Directorate