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Editorials

Full disclosure

Reveal properties’ meth-related past

Indiana lawmakers serve Hoosiers best when they respond to issues affecting the health and well-being of the state’s residents. A bill creating an online registry of houses where methamphetamine labs have been found is just such an example. The risk the chemical-contaminated properties pose to new occupants makes it imperative that potential buyers or renters know of the danger.

House Bill 1141 was approved by the Senate’s Civil Law committee Monday and now goes to the full Senate. Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, sponsored the bill, prompted by the experience of a real estate appraiser who suffered lung damage after inspecting a meth-contaminated house.

The chemical cocktail used to produce meth creates a vapor that condenses on carpets, walls, ceilings and in ventilation systems. The dangerous residue is long-lasting and requires cleanup by a specially trained hazardous material team.

For each pound of meth cooked, the process leaves behind 5 to 6 pounds of waste, including mercury, lead, iodine, lithium and poisonous solvents. Exposure to even small amounts of the waste can damage the nervous system, liver and blood-production mechanisms, particularly in small children. Exposure can trigger birth defects and developmental problems in fetuses.

McNamara’s bill requires that property used for meth production or as a dumping ground for the drug be listed on a website for at least 90 days after it is certified as decontaminated by an approved inspector. Responsibility for the online registry is transferred to the Indiana State Police from the state’s Criminal Justice Institute, which never received funding to create the registry.

The state police already have a database of meth lab seizures, according to First Sgt. Niki Crawford, commander of the agency’s methamphetamine suppression section. State Police will format the information to post online.

“The new disclosure part allows a purchaser to know what they’re getting into,” Crawford said. “It’s simply a public safety tool.”

Current law allows property owners time to decontaminate a residence before an address is listed on a registry. The legislation would require properties be listed immediately and also removes a provision that makes records related to a property’s removal from the registry confidential.

Indiana would join a handful of states that have now passed meth-lab disclosure laws, including Ohio. Once a rural scourge, meth production has moved to cities and suburbs so homebuyers or prospective tenants might not be aware of the risk.

The bill doesn’t address the root of the problem, but it goes a long way in protecting unsuspecting Hoosiers. It passed the House with a 95-0 vote and deserves the same unanimous support in the Senate.

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