Article: Law & Finance

Confusion Around “P” Contamination with Ian ReevesConfusion Around “P” Contamination with Ian Reeves

“P” stands for “problem” for house owners, as well as for “pure” methamphetamine.

A little reading around P tells us of the terrible effects P has on the human body. The list of ingredients for its manufacture is enough to show that it is going to be toxic to the user. The facts are so stark it seems nonsensical that anyone would want to use P.

P users also affect the people around them in many destructive ways, which you will all know about. 

However, despite all this, there are people who choose to use P.  Worse, manufacture it and sell it to others.

Buildings Contaminated
Buildings are contaminated by the fumes of the drugs.  This becomes the problem of owners and occupiers of contaminated buildings.  I have seen figures indicating between 20% and 40% of all rental homes in New Zealand are contaminated by drug fumes.

Testing Recommended
At Henderson Reeves, we recommend all buyers obtain a test for “P” as a condition to buying a home.

The accepted NZ benchmark for remediation is 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres. Indications of P contamination generally cause the agreement to be cancelled by the buyer, even if below the NZ benchmark. The seller then may be forced to clean up the building, sometimes at great cost. 

The value to the building will certainly fall.  Banks generally decline to lend money on contaminated houses.  Insurance companies may refuse to insure.

Overreaction? 
But is this an overreaction?  Senior lecturer in environmental chemistry at Massey University, Dr Nick Kim, has recently explained that the level was designed for meth labs, not where smoking only had occurred.  He is reported as saying that even that level was 24 times lower than “the lowest level that you could plausibly have a health risk”. 

If Dr Kim is correct, the concern of the public, banks, insurance companies, lawyers et cetera may be exaggerated.

As Andrew King of the Property Investors Federation says, “the government needs to step in to allay people’s fears”.

People may be unduly worried about health risks.  The cost of decontamination may often be unnecessary.  There is a huge cost to society occurring.  Health risks and standards need to be clarified. Clarification is needed urgently. 

Ian Reeves is a Director at Henderson Reeves Lawyers.  You can contact him on 09 430 4340.


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