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Family who fell mysteriously ill discovers that their new home was a former meth lab

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 3rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Hankins family of Klamath, Oregon was enthusiastic about moving into their new home, a fixer-upper on 2427 Radcliffe. However, when Jonathan Hankins began getting headaches, his wife Beth began getting respiratory difficulty and young son began to get severe mouth sores - the Hankins made the startling discovery that their new home was a former methamphetamine lab. "The walls were poisoning us," Father Hankins says.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Buying the foreclosed home at a cool $36,000, the home originally needed "a little bit of love, but it's got good bones," Jonathan Hankins recalled. "We just had no idea that those bones were poisonous."

When the Hankins began to develop the aforementioned health issues, a neighbor reluctantly shared the fact that their new home was a former meth house.

A test of the home revealed a contamination level nearly 80 times above Oregon Heath Authority limits.

The Hankins have since promptly moved to another home.

The family's was warned that buying a foreclosed house from government-sponsored Freddie Mac meant the family had been informed about being responsible for detecting hazards like lead paint and asbestos. However, there was no warning from real estate agents or Freddie Mac about drug activity.

Sold "as is," the couple decided to save their money and skip a traditional inspection, which would have noted superficial repairs but not the chemicals used to cook the highly addictive drug. "In the case of methamphetamine, it's an invisible toxin," Jonathan says.

Twenty-three states, including Oregon, have laws requiring sellers to disclose if a property was ever used as a clandestine drug lab. Freddie Mac said it never knew the two-bedroom, one-bath home had a checkered past.

"We certainly empathize with the situation, but we had no prior information about the way the home had been used," Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German told journalists. "If we had, of course, we would have disclosed it."

Joe Mazzuca of Meth Lab Cleanup, a national remediation and training company estimates there are 2.5 million meth-contaminated homes in the U.S. "The signs and indicators aren't always there," he said. "You don't always see the meth residue. It's extremely dangerous stuff."

The problem, Mazzuca says "is off the charts. We average a call every three to five minutes." One of those recent calls came from Michigan, a state with no disclosure law, where a father unknowingly purchased a meth-contaminated home. "He just buried his 14-year-old daughter after living in it for two years . I could tell you stories like that for days."

Mazzuca also believes scores of home buyers are at risk because only one in 10 meth labs are busted. Information can fall through the cracks by the time a big bank or government agency gets past the red tape of selling a foreclosed home.

Mazzuca advised anyone considering buying a foreclosure to do their due diligence. He suggested the following actions:

-- Check the DEA's National Clandestine Laboratory Register at www.justice.gov/dea/clan-lab/clan-lab.shtml.
-- Talk to the property's neighbors.
-- Contact the local health department and police for past issues.
-- Buy a kit to test for chemicals.

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