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Press Releases :: March 3, 2005

Science Committee Democrats Work to Clean Up Methamphetamine, Aid Local Communities

(Washington, DC) - Today the U.S. House Science Committee examined an insidious and growing problem in the United States – the production and dangers posed by the highly addictive drug methamphetamine, or "meth."

The Committee focused on H.R. 798, the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2005, sponsored by Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Committee Chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).

"Meth use has reached epidemic proportions," stated Rep. Gordon.  "This dangerous drug destroys families and communities, leaving in its wake overtaxed law enforcement authorities, overburdened child service agencies and hazardous toxic dumps wherever it is produced."

This bi-partisan legislation is the result of a district roundtable Rep. Gordon hosted last year in his home state of Tennessee.  Like too many states across the country, Tennessee’s burgeoning meth problem has placed more than 700 children in state custody (at a cost of over $4 million to the state) and resulted in the seizure of more than 1,200 labs last year alone.  Law enforcement authorities estimate these numbers reflect only 30% of meth labs in existence.

Today’s hearing examined the various components of H.R. 798, including:

  • Establishment of a research program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop voluntary health-based guidelines for cleanup of meth labs.  EPA will begin by issuing current best practices and updating them as research continues.
  • Establishment of a research program at the National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) to develop meth detection equipment, with an emphasis on field test kits.
  • Requires a study by the National Academy of Sciences on the long-term health impacts of children taken from meth labs, and on first responders.

Witnesses echoed the severity of the meth problem.  Dr. Robert Bell, President of the Tennessee Technological University, explained the financial toll meth takes on local communities.  "Removal and handling of evidence and hazardous residue can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 per site… restoration of the site to safe, habitable conditions can cost additional tens of thousands of dollars.  Businesses suffer from escalated costs of health coverage, lost time at work, workplace injuries and theft."

Meth labs not only cost communities, they can create a serious public health threat.  "These labs may pose a health and safety threat after drug production ceases due to the presence of hazardous manufacturing byproducts and residual production chemicals, if cleanup is not done properly," added The National Multi Housing Council and the National Apartment Association.  "This legislation takes a crucial first step towards achieving this goal.  Research is fundamental to the establishment of effective, health-based cleanup standards."

"This bill is not a solution to the meth epidemic, but it will insure that we protect meth’s unintended victims – our first responders, children, and communities innocently affected in meth’s wake," concluded Rep. Gordon.

The bill authorizes $3 million/year for EPA (FY06-09) and $1.5 million/year for NIST (FY06-09).  The Science Committee is expected to mark up H.R. 798 in the coming weeks.

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