Entering a meth lab means stepping into a toxic waste dump. The witches’ brew used to cook meth can include battery acid, rat poison, paint thinner, drain cleaner, brake fluid—the list goes on and on, and involves some of the most toxic and volatile chemicals imaginable. Clandestine labs began popping up in Utah in the late 70s; by the mid 90s, Utah agents were raiding more than 300 labs a year—makeshift operations in kitchens, basements, bathrooms, hotel rooms, rental trucks and even car trunks.
Initially, they weren’t aware of the need for gear to protect against chemical exposures, nor could they imagine going into battle with face masks and oxygen tanks that would prohibit their ability to see and react quickly. Over time, they began to experience a cluster of health problems, in much higher concentrations than in the general population: severe acid reflux and intestinal problems, chronic migraines, insomnia, joint pain and muscle tremors, among other complaints.
In an effort to address this problem. the Utah Meth Cops Project was established through a joint effort between Utah legislators, police chiefs, sheriffs, police officers’ organizations and other partners.
Once delivery began, the impact was dramatic. Men who had complained of chronic fatigue were waking up in the morning full of vigor. Men who had trembled with the slightest physical exertion stopped shaking no matter how active they became. Joint pains, migraines, inability to concentrate, stomach problems were gone.
The project assisted nearly 100 officers on a humanitarian basis, at no cost, and concluded its operation when all those who desired help had been served. The supervising physician published a paper regarding the benefits of the program in the journal Toxicology and Industrial Health.