On a recent assignment, Jeff Grant, of Bullseye Home Inspection, performed an additional test he does not often get requests for. Along with the normal inspections, Grant ran a few swabs to test for methamphetamine use. The results were shocking.
Not only were they positive, but they indicated high levels of methamphetamine.
"It was probable that it was used to cook meth," Grant said.
Most home buyers do not ask for a meth test, and most tests do not come back at a level showing that meth has been cooked.
"It's a good thing they had it tested, because that house certainly would have been a big problem," Grant said. "It's one of those things where you can't tell."
Stories such as Grant's have become rarer in Utah, as the production of crystal methamphetamine has dropped dramatically in the state.
Local production peaked between 2003 to 2005, said Lt. Darin Parke, commander with the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force.
Since then, precursor chemicals, such as ephedrine, have become highly regulated.
Law enforcement does come across the occasional clandestine drug laboratory, but the strike force has not come across a single meth lab in nine months.
"We've taken them out of very average typical neighborhoods before," Parke said. "We've taken them out of your rougher neighborhoods, where ever."
After police make a bust, the address is listed with local health departments, thanks to a Utah law passed in 2006. The same law makes it illegal to knowingly sell a home contaminated by meth.
The address remains on a list until the home is cleaned by a certified decontamination company and approved by the local health department.
Weber-Morgan Health Department has two houses on its list, while Davis County Health Department has only had one building on its list since the list was created.
Christina McNaughton, toxicologist for the Utah Department of Health, said all porous materials, such as carpets and untreated drywall, must be removed. Everything else, including painted surfaces and duct work, is scrubbed with a chemical mixture to neutralize or break down the methamphetamine.
"Every surface of the house has to be cleaned, and if not, it has to be removed," McNaughton said. "There really is nothing like meth to compare. It really is its own monster."
That's because all of the chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine are toxic.
"They are playing with things they really shouldn't be, and they are tampering with chemicals that they don't know how they will react," McNaughton said.
Michael Rowzee, general manager of Certified Decontamination in West Jordan, makes his living cleaning up toxic places.
Rowzee uses the techniques he learned in the Army cleaning and defending against hazardous materials, which comes in handy when the company has to handle former meth labs.
"It's some of the more difficult compounds to decontaminate," Rowzee said.
Many of the hazardous materials produced in a meth lab include volatile forms of iodine, volatile forms of chlorine, red phosphorous and mercury.
Rowzee said his company's cleaning process not only removes the chemicals from meth production, but also decontaminates and sanitizes the entire house.
Although the number of kitchen laboratories across the state are way down, officials find that usage has increased and the smoke gets everywhere.
"It will pretty much contaminate every part of the house," McNaughton said, and it stays there.
No studies show that meth dissipates over time, McNaughton said. Unless it is properly cleaned, it will not disappear.
Worse, officials do not know what the long-term effects of crystal meth use are on a home.
Gary House, director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said not enough studies have been done.
"Now it becomes more of a puzzle, is the level of contamination more severe? If it's not, does it pose a risk to health?"
A good meth test should detect when meth was heavily used in a home. However, health department officials said they can only monitor homes that have been listed by law enforcement.
If the public has questions, the law limits health departments to only referring residents to a decontamination company.
This is a problem renters can face.
House said landlords do not support requirements to test their properties, because of the high turnover. Testing every time a tenant leaves would be cost prohibitive.
Knowing whether someone has used meth in a home is not easy.
"If you walk into a house and there have been (cigarette) smokers there, you can smell it," House said. "With meth, it's not necessarily the case."
House said one of the best and simplest things a person can do when buying or renting is talk to neighbors to see if there have been any problems with previous residents.
With a few safety precautions, residents have less to worry about when it comes to finding a home that once served as a drug lab than they did less than a decade ago.
In recent years, production shifted to super labs in Mexico that produce crystal meth by the pound, and the future of those labs is uncertain as well.
Parke said he has heard the Mexican government is tightening distribution of ephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of crystal meth, which would decrease production of meth south of the border.
"I don't know where it's going to end up yet."