According to the Insurance Council, claim numbers for meth-contaminated properties have been steadily rising and are now estimated to cost insurers in excess of $30 million a year.

New standards for meth contamination testing will come as a welcome relief to the insurance industry – not to mention buyers, sellers, agents, landlords, and tenants.

Under the old guidelines, even a very conservative trace of meth could see tenants removed from their homes and landlords facing an expensive clean-up – often unnecessarily. The new standards take a more sensible approach, deeming a higher level of contamination to be safe.

The new standards

The 2010 levels were set based on the assumption that contamination was created by a meth lab – trace elements of methamphetamine indicated a harmful cocktail of precursor chemicals were also present, so levels were set very low.

These days, much of the country’s P comes ready-made into the country, so most contamination is a result of usage and a higher level of the drug is likely to be safe. 

As Nathaniel Hamilton from Meth Testing NZ says,  

“50% of properties we test have a trace – that can be very low, and doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to worry about it. Out of 5,000 properties sampled in the past 12 months, about one in 10 properties are over the new guideline.”

The new standards come from a better understanding of the health risks and gives clearer advice and controls around the decontamination standards and processes.

A 1.5μg/100cm2 limit is now allowed – three times that allowed under the old guidelines. The standards also specify a two-stage process for sampling. The first stage will determine if contamination levels are above the limits, and the second specifically quantifies the level and extent of contamination.

What the new standards mean for homeowners and buyers

The new standards should give people confidence, with Minister for Building and Housing Nick Smith calling them a “huge leap forward.”

“It will give people greater confidence and certainty, will result in hundreds fewer properties having to be vacated and save millions in unnecessary decontamination work,” Dr Smith said.

Nathaniel from Meth Testing NZ agrees, saying that for people buying, selling or renting potentially contaminated properties, the new standards help cut through the hysteria.

“When we find traces of P, our job is to discuss the report with each new purchaser and say, “This is what this means, you don’t necessarily need to be scared off by the word ‘meth’.”

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