A rolling meth lab is a transportable laboratory that is used to produce illegally methamphetamine. Rolling meth labs are often moved to a secluded location where the strong, toxic fumes of methamphetamine manufacture cannot be detected and where the toxic manufacturing byproducts can be discarded.They are sometimes designed to manufacture the drug while the lab is traveling.
The process of "cooking" methamphetamine can be dangerous as it involves poisonous, flammable, and explosive chemicals: in November 2001, a rolling meth lab that was carrying anhydrous ammonia exploded on Interstate 24 in southwest Kentucky, prompting law enforcement to shut down the freeway. Such incidents have not only injured the meth producers, but have injured passing motorists and police officers, who are also exposed to dangerous fumes.
Toxic effects and dangerous remnants
Trash left from an illegal meth lab. Meth lab waste is extremely hazardous and toxic waste cleanup is a major problem for authorities and property owners. Common waste includes toluene, ammonia, soda bottles, kitty litter, lithium batteries, ether, matches, and pseudoephedrine blister packs.
As with a home lab, so the remaining fumes from a crude moving methamphetamine lab can be extremely toxic. The surfaces of the vehicle's interior can be coated or impregnated with the poisonous residue, rendering the vehicle worthless. Vehicles stolen for the single purpose of manufacture of the drug are most often considered contaminated and unusable, as exposure to the by-products of the chemical reaction remaining in the vehicle is frequently too dangerous to attempt decontamination. A further complication is that the "cooking" methods for meth frequently change so the proper remediation for a given lab site cannot be assumed from previous known lab methods. Law enforcement Hazmat teams assigned to dispose of the toxic materials must be cautious and receive training on a regular basis.
Law enforcement and detection
Rolling meth labs can be concealed on or in vehicles as large as 18 wheelers or as small as motorcycles. Rolling labs are more difficult to detect than stationary ones and can be often hidden amidst legal cargo on big trucks. Many recent rolling lab discoveries were the result of an officer just "stumbling" onto them. Improved officer training and checking suspicious vehicles with K-9 units may allow increased detection.
Indicators that further investigation is needed
Bottles or jars containing a clear liquid with a white or red solid coating the bottom, with rubber tubing attached
Many cans of paint thinner, lye, acetone, lighter fluid, and drain cleaners or acid
Strong smell of urine or such unusual chemical smells as ether, acetone, or ammonia
Coffee filters containing a white pasty substance, a dark red paste, or small amounts of shiny, white crystals
Glass cookware or stove pans containing a powdery residue