14 News has learned some families in the Tri-State are living in homes that used to hold meth labs – and they may not even know it.
There are some on the front lines who are working to keep children safe from the hidden dangers.
Through our investigation, we learned there are families facing serious health risks by living in meth homes that have yet to be cleaned, but crews who specialize in the cleanup of caustic chemicals run towards the problem while others run away.
Dressed like a character from the TV show Breaking Bad, Rick Held vacuums layers of meth dust from the ceiling of a former Tri-State meth house.
Held says a mother cooker meth for years in the kitchen with her two young children close by.
"I'm really weak when it comes to kids," said Rick. "I just see that the parents or whoever is there, there's something wrong with their head for them to even do something like this in front of their kids."
The owner of the house is spending thousands of dollars to have Crisis Cleaning, a state qualified inspector, do their dirty work.
Rick's crews will clean more than 120 meth homes in 2014 alone.
Potent chemicals are sprayed onto every surface and in every crevice to neutralize meth absorbed in the ceiling, floors, and walls.
Drug residue can leave unsuspecting tenants mysteriously ill.
"A lot of people will find out after the fact," said Jesse Plessinger. "They move in and they'll find a substance in the closet and not know what it is."
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management keeps a long list of meth homes that are reported then cleaned by a state qualified inspector, like Crisis Cleaning. Officials say there are no rules that force landlords to share any of the information with their tenants.
On the front lines, Evansville Police Detective Brock Hensley of the Meth Suppression Unit took 14 News by some homes, where as many as 200 one-pot meth labs were found inside.
"You're dealing with sulfuric acid, Coleman cleaning fuel, which has naphtha in it, lye, a lot of costic chemicals," said Det. Brock.
In 2013, 115 meth labs were found in Vanderburgh County, the most of any county in the state.
That just adds to the number of homes that must be cleaned.
Reports of dirty homes are on the rise at the Vanderburgh County Health Department. Dwayne Caldwell says tests of meth homes must register below the safe level: 0.5
Rick says the home we visited was registered a 15. That's 30 times what is considered safe.
For Rick and his crew, every home carries a story of the dangers of addiction and lost dreams.
"What I've seen are suicide letters from the mother giving up or the father giving up," said Rick. "Looking at the pictures of all the kid, but the sad thing is they don't get their memory because that stuff all goes in the trash because there's meth all over them."
The process to clean a meth home can take 3 to 4 days. It can costs tens of thousands of dollars, which property owners are responsible for paying.
To keep track of meth homes, a database is in the works for Indiana State Police, Local Health Departments and IDEM to use, but it is still being developed.
If you're concerned about your home, it may be a good idea to ask your landlord directly before signing your lease.
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