A rolling meth lab is a transportable laboratory that is used to illegally produce methamphetamine. Rolling meth labs often go where the strong, toxic fumes of methamphetamine manufacture cannot be detected, and where the toxic byproducts thereof can be discarded they sometimes are designed to render the drug while the lab travels in a vehicle.
The process of "cooking" methamphetamine 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, which backed up for miles. Such incidents as this one have injured the meth producers, 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: These remaining by-products often are so dangerous as to prevent decontamination. The "cooking" methods for meth frequently change; the proper remediation for a given lab site therefore cannot be assumed from previous known lab methods. Law enforcement Hazmat teams, who are assigned to dispose of the toxic materials, must be cautious and regularly train.
Law enforcement and detection
Rolling meth labs can be concealed on or in vehicles that are as large as 18 wheelers or as small as a motorcycle. 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 suspiscious vehicles with K-9 units may allow increased detection.
Indicators that further investigation is needed
Jars that are attached to rubber tubing and contain a clear liquid with a red or white solid coating on the bottom
Many cans of paint thinner, lye, acetone, lighter fluid, drain cleaners, or acid
Strong smell of urine or such unusual chemical smells as ether, acetone, or ammonia
Coffee filters that contain a white pasty substance, a dark red paste, or small amounts of shiny, white crystals
Glass cookware or stove pans that contain a powdery residue