Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The 'P' testing hoax

Having dealt with real estate and renting recently, the issue of 'P' testing caught my attention, as matters do when they start to personally effect you. I wrote the following but had sat on it unfinished. Now the Government's chief scientist agrees. So for what it's worth:

Despite concerted efforts to reduce availability of key ingredient pseudo-ephedrine, the manufacture of methamphetamine continues along with a new hysteria - P contaminated houses. This ‘crisis’ suits and serves a new industry of testers and contaminant cleaner-uppers.  Landlords and resident owners however bear the brunt of costs associated with this fledgling ticket-clipping industry.  In late 2017, Ross Bell, New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director, told journalist, Maria Slade,

“As a country we’ve gone down this rabbit hole. I’ve described [meth testing] as the biggest scam that’s ever been run in New Zealand, and I still hold that to be true.” 

There is now a clause in real estate contracts whereby a seller must agree to methamphetamine-testing of their property. Of course most properties will be free from contamination but the clause is there to ‘test’ for willingness to comply. A resistance would indicate a possible problem. But the very presence of the clause draws the attention of the potential buyer who then feels pressured to take up the option. He is unaware that the official level of P contamination considered dangerous is very low and highly contentious. In a risk-averse climate, governments in particular are bound to err on the side of safety.

The current level is set at 1.5 microgram per 100 square centimetres. Above this level a property is legally ‘contaminated’. But Nick Kim of Massey University says the level is “risibly low”. According to Slade:

“In a 2016 paper Kim advised that the lowest level of daily exposure to meth that could have a remotely plausible health effect on infants, the most vulnerable members of society, was 12 micrograms – about 8 times the new standard.” 

Other academics are more cautious but agree that the level is set low to provide a substantial safety buffer. The Drug Foundation succinctly captures how this manufactured crisis is based on falsehood:

“The debate about the health risks of living in a house where methamphetamine has previously been smoked (‘non-labs’) has not arisen from concerns raised by the medical or scientific establishment. Instead, it has been driven by Housing New Zealand’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach to tenants taking drugs in their properties, by the media response to that and by the methamphetamine testing and remediation industry.”

New Zealand Drug Foundation, 2017:

"New Zealand spent $52 million last year remediating state houses that contained residues of methamphetamine. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that living in a house where methamphetamine has previously been smoked causes harm. The cost is mind-boggling, but so are the social justice implications – many Housing New Zealand clients were forced to leave their homes and are now homeless and facing huge debts, along with their children and dependants."
Thanks government. Just another fiasco associated with the war on drugs.


Anonymous said...

Looking at these scams (asbestos and health and safety are another two) shows us why our productivity is low. I wish I'd invented the orange cone.


Mark Wahlberg said...

Lindsay,you highlight a very profitable and legitimate face of the "P" trade. I suspect there will be a counter argument presented by vested interests in an attempt to reinforce peoples fear and keep the cash flowing. .
No matter how destructive,addictive and financially crippling "P" may be to many users, demand continues to outstrip supply.
The unfettered river of raw materials continues to flow out of countries like China to satisfy global appetites.
Regardless of how much money and or resources are thrown at the problem, its here to stay. The piles of illicit cash will continue to grow and i wonder at what point government will need to print more paper money to counter the hoarders?
While it may raise eyebrows when someone fronts with bundles of cash to buy a new car or boat, money talks.
Without the "P" trade, there can be no decontamination industry. Without the "P" trade police would have to look at other avenues to make up shortfalls from their lucrative "Proceeds of crime act."

Mark Wahlberg said...

And on the eighth day God created nicotine.......

Mark Wahlberg said...

The law of unintended consequences being what they are, this message now gives Carte Blanche to all the miscreants living in rented accommodation, the rules have been voided.

The "P testing scam" gave some measure of how much of this drug was being consumed by elements within society. Now the map makers will have to resort to the old system of waiting for someone to lose their plot and go on a violet rampage to create new statistics for us to go OHH AHH over.

Subliminally the "message" also suggests "P" aint so bad after all and I suspect sales will increase with this blanket endorsement. With a puff of smoke the Genie is out of the bottle bearing gifts for all..