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Sir Peter Gluckmans report: is 15 the new safe level for meth?

Last week, Sir peter Gluckman, the prime ministers chief scientific advisor released a report on the third hand exposure of methamphetamine. In summary, the report suggests the following main points.

  • Third hand exposure to methamphetamine below 15 micrograms per 100cm2 is not hazardous.

  • Testing is not worthwhile as most people won’t come into contact with 15 micrograms or more of methamphetamine in housing.

  • The standard NZS8510:2017 only applies to clan labs and heavy usage.

We would like to clarify a few points that we feel may have been overlooked, exaggerated or simply miscommunication by the media and Sir Peter Gluckman after the release of this report.

  • The ESR (Institute of Environmental Sciences and Research) New Zealands crown research institute, formulated and recommended the current standard level of 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2 based on the California regulations in the United states. The research conducted in California is some of the most comprehensive and suggests that even 2 micro grams is not conservative enough to cover the “worst case scenario”.

  • The ESR has no political or economic bias towards the recommendations of their research and is therefore, an unbiased third party to the industry and the current government.

  • The report released by Sir Peter Gluckman who is a well known and respected scientist, is scientific opinion and not scientific fact. There is no consensus among scientists or in research that methamphetamine is, or is not harmful, with third hand exposure.

  • The “new research” on which the report is based, is in-fact, not new and does not contain any new pieces of information not made available to the ESR when making their recommendation to the standards committee.

  • Sir Peter Gluckmans' report comes at a great advantage to the government, freeing up state houses as per Labours election promises and solving a massive problem for the housing minister and the government in the long term management of housing NZ.

  • Gluckman suggests that testing is a waste of time because most people will not come into contact with meth above 15 micro grams. However, the ESR confirmed that 1% of the properties tested had reading above this threshold. This translates into approximately 15,000 contaminated properties in the market that could potentially be affecting their occupants.

  • Gluckman suggested that New Zealand has made a "leap in logic" applying a standard where no evidence has justified it and that no other country in the world is doing it this way. Here is one of many such relevant reviews of such information by the ESR. ESR review of California MA Standard @ 1.5 Micrograms per 100cm2.

While there is not a lot of direct research on the subject of third hand exposure which in inherently difficult to study, there is plenty of first hand experience from the occupants of these houses. These testimonies suggest that this is a serious underlying health problem that our government is not just choosing to ignore, but deliberately overwrite for what seems to be exclusively, political success. Without any new evidence to support it, what else could account for such a radical change in policy?

Is this a repeat of the asbestos, thalidomide, tobacco and lead paint debacles? All once proclaimed as safe and beneficial. Only time will tell.

What does this mean for the future?

  • A review of the NZS8510:2017 standard is likely to occur towards the end of this year, with potential alterations to the standard within months of the review. While the government is pushing hard for the safe level of “15”, there will be some debate amongst the scientific organisations involved in the review as to what is the most appropriate level and as such, there is the possibility that the “safe” level will not change at all.

  • The tenancy tribunal will continue to work to the 1.5 microgram threshold set by the standard NZS8510:2017 and is unlikely to accept any revised threshold such as that set by Sir Peter Gluckmans report until it’s acceptance and admission to the New Zealand meth testing standard.

  • The tribunal has not and will not accept ignorance of meth contamination as a defence for not providing a safe and habitable environment. Regardless of what level of meth is determined to be safe, proving it via laboratory testing and professional companies using the NZS8510:2017 standard is still best practise in managing your tenants and reducing undue liabilities.

  • Individual councils will determine what level they will follow for their requirements, but the majority will follow the Ministry of Health’s recommendation which is the standards threshold of 1.5 micrograms.

  • The indication this far is that insurance companies will continue to use the current threshold of 1.5 micrograms until any revised “safe level” is accepted into the standard.

  • Lawyers and banks are likely to follow the NZ Standard of 1.5 micrograms.

  • The REAA (Real estate authority) New Zealand has released a statement that agents will no longer be required to disclose meth tested houses below 15 micro grams to perspective buyers unless specifically asked. Click here for more. This puts agents out of step with banks, insurance and lawyers.

Our recommendations:

  • Continue any meth testing regime you currently have in place, as this is beneficial for insurance/health and safety & proactive risk management.

  • Pre-purchase meth testing will let you know the risk prior to purchase and whether it fits under either the 1.5 microgram or 15 microgram thresholds respectively.

  • Talk to your insurance company about what they will cover above the 1.5 micrograms and whether they will cover any claim where no previous testing has been undertaken.

  • Wait for further information from the government and clarification of the Standard.

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