A government report released today shows there is no health risk from third-hand exposure to methamphetamine in houses where it has been smoked. Housing Minister Phil Twyford says this means the more than $100mil spent cleaning and testing state houses was unnecessary.
The prime minister’s chief science advisor and report author Sir Peter Gluckman says mould in the home is more of a health risk than meth residue.
"Let's not get a headline saying 'mould is more dangerous than meth' but in terms of the housing estate mould is far more dangerous than meth" he says.
Tests at a level ten times higher than the current standard (1.5mcg/100cm2) were carried out at 1,600 state houses where meth production and heavy use was suspected. One percent exceeded this threshold (15mcg/100cm2) but even at this limit exposure was unlikely to have adverse effects.
Gluckman says, "We're looking at a thousand-fold safety factor minimum in our recommendations- for a naked toddler crawling around the floor licking every bit of the floor up for several hours a day. That's the kind of calculation that's been done, taking it as far as you can".
Around $100mil over four years has been spent by Housing New Zealand (HNZ) testing and decontaminating houses.
Twyford says around 240 empty previously unsafe homes would be put back to use in a few weeks.
"HNZ's intention now is to follow the recommendation of this report that only in houses that are found- where methamphetamine contamination is found- to exceed the threshold of 15mcg per 100cm2 would they then take remediation beyond just normal cleaning".
National’s Social Services Spokesperson Paula Bennett welcomes the report saying it reflects the view she had as Social Housing Minister that the thresholds for meth testing were too low.
Twyford says the changes mean Housing New Zealand would save up to $30mil a year on testing and remediation.