U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon's legislation designed to stem the scourge of methamphetamine in the nation's communities cleared the U.S. House of Representatives today (Feb. 7).
"We have a duty to protect innocent families not only from the criminals who make and use this illegal drug, but also from the aftereffects of that crime," said Gordon, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology.
The House approved H.R. 365, the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007, and the bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Gordon said he became aware of the severity of Tennessee's methamphetamine problem several years ago when speaking with a group of students in Middle Tennessee.
"I asked a group of Cannon County High School students to tell me about the biggest problem facing them," said Gordon. "Their response shocked me. Those young men and women weren't concerned with getting a date to the prom; they were worried about meth abuse in their community."
Gordon's bill will help communities clean up former meth labs by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to develop model, voluntary, health-based clean-up guidelines for states and localities to use to ensure former meth labs are safe and livable.
In 2005 alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported seizing more than 850 meth labs in Tennessee.
The chemicals used to make this extremely addictive drug are highly toxic and can infuse the walls, carpet and furniture of any house, apartment, hotel room, or dwelling in which the drug was manufactured. Unsuspecting families who later inhabit former meth lab sites are then exposed to the chemical residues, which can result in potentially devastating long-term health problems.
"Meth production and use is rampant in Tennessee and in states across the country," said Gordon. "I have seen the devastating effects of meth in our communities, and I know this bill will make a difference back home."
The legislation authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology to initiate a research program to develop meth detection equipment for field use. Such equipment will help local law enforcement agencies and first responders detect active meth labs faster and assist in measuring contamination levels. The legislation also requires a study by the National Academy of Sciences on the long-term health impacts on first responders and on children rescued from meth labs.
The bill has been endorsed by numerous national organizations including the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Association of Counties and the National Association of Realtors.