In some stolen cars, Anchorage laboratory finds invisible meth residue

Published: Dec. 5, 2017 at 5:31 PM AKST
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Most cars stolen in Anchorage are returned to their owners, but even after a thorough cleaning, a nasty surprise can remain inside.

“Every time I get in that truck, I've had a headache,” said Dave Mabeus, whose truck was stolen and recovered earlier this year.

Mabeus is one of a growing number of customers asking a Mountain View environmental lab – the kind of business that normally samples for, say, asbestos in homes – to test his vehicle. The result? Ten times the EPA’s recommended threshold for exposure to methamphetamine.

Officials with the state Health Department say there are no known studies of the health impact of third-hand contact with methamphetamine residue, but some chemicals used to make the drug are toxic and could be harmful to infants or small children.

Once present in a vehicle, the chemicals are difficult to remove.

“Those soft materials, it’s impossible to get that residue out ... so everything has to come out. Fabric of a car seat. Headlights. Speaker cones,” said Brett O’Bray, vice president of White Environmental Consultants.

The Mountain View laboratory has been testing for methamphetamine for an increasing number of Anchorage-area car owners.

Methamphetamine deaths in Alaska have

, according to the state health department. Meantime, Anchorage is on pace for a record-breaking number of vehicle thefts in 2017.

A representative for the state Department of Motor Vehicles said she was not aware of any Alaska law that requires car owners to disclose that their vehicle had been stolen before selling it used.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau does allow users to enter the VIN number of a vehicle to see if it is listed as actively stolen, but when we tried entering the information for Alaska cars that had been stolen and recovered, the database made no mention of the theft.