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Flinders University Researchers Address Growing Concerns Over Methamphetamine Contamination


Structures of members of the amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) class of amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Credit: Toxics (2022). DOI: 10.3390/toxics10110710
Structures of members of the amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) class of amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Credit: Toxics (2022). DOI: 10.3390/toxics10110710

Researchers at Flinders University are calling for more accurate methods to detect traces of toxic methamphetamine contamination left behind on surfaces and materials. The contamination, which is commonly found in homes and buildings where the drug has been used or manufactured, can pose serious health risks to people who come into contact with it.


"There is a lack of information on the transfer processes of methamphetamine from indoor air and clothing that could contribute to potential health risks from potential re-emission, direct skin contact, and ingestion from hand-to-mouth activity in these areas," says Flinders Ph.D. candidate Gemma Kerry.


Exposure to methamphetamine contamination can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or direct skin contact with contaminated surfaces or materials. In addition to the risks associated with direct contact, methamphetamine contamination can also pose a "third-hand" risk to people who come into contact with surfaces or materials that have been contaminated by the drug.


Third-hand exposure occurs when methamphetamine contamination remains on surfaces or materials even after they have been cleaned, and people come into contact with the contamination indirectly. This can happen through the re-emission of methamphetamine particles into the air or through indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or materials.


To protect against the potential health risks associated with methamphetamine contamination, it is important to properly clean and decontaminate any surfaces or materials that may have been contaminated with the drug. This can include using specialized cleaning products and techniques to remove contamination and properly disposing of contaminated materials to prevent further exposure.

However, the study from Flinders University highlights the need for more research on the transfer processes of methamphetamine from indoor air and clothing, and how these processes can contribute to potential health risks from re-emission, direct skin contact, and ingestion.


The researchers are also looking for more accurate methods to detect methamphetamine contamination on surfaces, particularly on soft porous materials. This is important because current methods for detecting methamphetamine contamination may not be effective for these types of surfaces, and contamination may remain undetected even after a thorough cleaning.


The study emphasizes the need for more research and awareness of the potential health risks associated with methamphetamine contamination, and the importance of effective decontamination and detection methods to protect the public from exposure.


The study from Flinders University highlights the potential health risks of methamphetamine contamination, particularly for children and other vulnerable populations who may come into contact with contaminated surfaces or materials. In addition to the risks associated with direct exposure to the drug, third-hand exposure to methamphetamine contamination can also pose significant health risks, especially for young children who are more likely to come into contact with contaminated surfaces and materials.


Air sampling of indoor air at contaminated areas can help to identify areas where elevated levels of methamphetamine may be present, and can provide valuable information for assessing potential health risks and developing effective decontamination and detection methods.

According to a 2019 study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the use of methamphetamine in Australia has declined in recent years, with 1.3% of the population reporting having used the drug, down from 3.4% in 2001. However, the dangers of methamphetamine contamination remain a significant concern for public health officials and researchers.


According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the global use of amphetamines, including methamphetamine, is on the rise. An estimated 0.5% of the global population aged 15 to 64 has used amphetamines, which equates to about 27 million people worldwide.


In Australia, the use of methamphetamine is estimated to be lower than the global average, with about 300,000 Australians having used the drug for personal use. However, the dangers of methamphetamine contamination remain a significant concern for public health officials and researchers.


The latest research from Flinders University aims to better understand the transfer processes of methamphetamine from indoor air and clothing, and how these processes can contribute to potential health risks from third-hand exposure. The study has been published in the journal Toxics.


Journal Information: Gemma L. Kerry et al, A Review of Methods Used to Detect Methamphetamine from Indoor Air and Textiles in Confined Spaces, Toxics (2022). DOI: 10.3390/toxics10110710
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