Updated: Oct 27, 2022
At Champion Inspect, we often hear from folks wondering how to read their methamphetamine test results. Confusion is a reasonable reaction, too, given that most people don’t spend their leisure time studying lab reports. Well, except for the die-hard science buffs. (Or maybe the folks bent on a bit of intellectual masochism.)
But don’t worry. Once it’s broken down into manageable pieces, understanding your results isn’t all that tricky. And our visual guide is here to make it even easier.
Now, most of the tests we see come from local labs, so we’ll use a common lab report as our example. The content should be fairly standard, though, as long as your test is NIOSH compliant. (We’ll explain more about that in the next section.) However, if your results have nothing in common with this guide (or you’re still having trouble reading them), you may want to seek the help of a Certified Decontamination Specialist in your area.
(To clarify, this information is specific to laboratory testing kits. We don’t generally recommend instant tests since they are, in our experience, fairly inaccurate.)
Methamphetamine Test: Reading the Results
Determining the Type of Test
To start us off, you’ll want to note the type of test you’re dealing with. You may know this already, especially if you bought the test yourself. If not, you can always review the method and instrument section of your report.
“Method” refers to the overall process for collecting and analyzing your sample. You’ll notice the method here is NIOSH 9111. Simply put, NIOSH stands for The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It’s part of the CDC and works closely with OSHA. It also conducts and oversees research related to the workplace.
The short version of that is NIOSH informs best practices for testing harmful substances like meth. NIOSH 9111, however, is an approved (and perhaps the gold standard) sampling method for meth.
“Instrument,” on the other hand, refers to the type of analysis performed by the lab. The instrument here was LCMS01. That means the lab processed this sample via liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, which allows the lab to separate and identify the present molecules. It is also the required analysis for all NIOSH 9111 compliant tests.
(Be aware that the State of Utah requires NIOSH compliance in all official testing. Visit our other articles to learn more.)
Sampling Parameter: Area
Determining the Test Area
When performing a test, samplers swab various sections in a property with areas of 100cm². So, if the Sampling Parameter Area is 300cm², then the test consists of the three areas swabbed on the same sample – or a 3-point composite sample.
The vast majority of methamphetamine tests are composite samples since they are less expensive than testing individual areas with separate samples. And, thanks to the law of averages, a composite sample also gives us a useful piece to the puzzle of how much meth is in the property – and what decontamination steps make sense.
You see, it isn’t possible to test every square inch of a building. But, by testing multiple areas on the same sample and averaging the total amount of meth by the area tested, we can gain an idea of how much meth (what ratio) we’re dealing with. Now, it’s not uncommon for one area of a house to test higher than another, so how much we rely on these readings does vary by circumstance.
This is part of why we generally recommend hiring a professional when testing your home. They know where and how to test to give a clear idea of what a property needs.
Sampling Parameter: μg/100cm
Determining the μg/100cm Results
“Sampling Parameter: Area 300cm²” totaled all the areas we swabbed within our sample. You may have guessed, then, that the μg/sample is the total amount of meth found within your test.
In this case, our lab reported that the total amount of meth was ‘ND’ (or non-detectable). That means that if any meth is present in our sample, it is so negligible that the lab’s sensitive instruments can’t find it. We like this reading since it’s as close as you can get to ‘zero meth.’
If there was a number here, it would indicate the lab could still detect traces of methamphetamine. Of course, the amount of meth (and your personal circumstances) will dictate whether or not there’s a problem. If you see a result other than non-detectable, we recommend discussing your results with a Certified Decontamination Specialist.
(And as a reminder: interpreting your results depends on proper sampling and training. It is not uncommon for people who aren’t trained to unintentionally compromise their sample. This is part of why we generally recommend hiring a professional for the entire testing process. They know how and where to test to improve the accuracy of your results.)
Sampling Parameter: μg/100cm²
Determining the μg/100cm² Results
The μg/100cm² column represents the solution to an important equation. By averaging the total amount of meth (μg/sample) by the area tested (area 300cm²) we generate a better idea of what your property might need.
Know that if this number was greater than 1.0/100cm²μg (one-millionth of a gram of meth per one hundred square centimeters), then the state of Utah considers the property contaminated. On the other hand, if it falls below 1.0/100cm²μg, then decontamination is not legally required. (We cannot overstress that this assumes proper sampling took place.)
However, even if decontamination isn’t a requirement, it may still be wise. In other words, there are some situations that justify decontaminating to a non-detectable standard rather than state standards alone. For instance, if the μg/100cm² metric satisfies the state, but the μg/sample is still high, it can indicate a problem. That is why we have to consider all of this information together.
Now, going back to our sample, you can see its results are less than 0.033 μg/100cm²μg. Written out this is .3% of one-millionth of a gram of meth per one hundred square centimeters. Ergo, this sample meets state standards and indicates the property does not require further treatment.
However, you may wonder why we have numeric reading if our previous result said non-detect. Well, that’s a bit complicated and it might be best to talk it through with a professional. Just remember non-detect doesn’t necessarily mean ‘zero.’ It means that the amount of meth is either infinitesimal or non-existent.
Sampling Parameter: RL μg/sample
Determining the RL μg/sample
This is the final piece of the lab report we’re going to look over. It simply represents the reporting limit of the lab (or how much meth they can detect). In most cases, it will be 0.10μg.
So, any results less than 0.10μg are non-detectable.
We hope this guide was helpful in better understanding your meth test results. However, if you’re still confused about what your report or what you should do, you’re not alone. Meth testing is a specific and detailed process, and it’s not always easy to figure it out on your own.
For more assistance, you can either call the laboratory that processed your sample or a Certified Decontamination Specialist in your area.