A Shoalhaven woman is calling for mandatory methamphetamine, or ice, screening on all rental properties after she became ill and was forced to leave all her belongings in a contaminated rental.
Veronica Rawlinson moved into the Shoalhaven rental home in March last year, after struggling to find a property that allowed pets.
“It was bit knocked about, it wasn’t what I was used to but there wasn’t much else,” she said. “Little did I know what was about to happen.”
After a couple of months, she started noticing lesions and breakouts on her skin that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“They were itchy and felt a bit like sunburn,” she said. “I went to a few doctors and had biopsies but nothing was coming back.”
She said her sleep was affected – she was surviving on just a couple of hours a night.
“I’d wake up at 2am and have a cup of tea and put on the TV,” Ms Rawlinson said. “I was wide awake.”
Ms Rawlinson said she didn’t put two and two together until she did some research, discovering that methamphetamine residue could cause symptoms such as raspy coughs, rashes, skin irritations and lack of sleep.
In September, she was told to move out of the rental home immediately, after Megan Liddicoat of Meth Detection Australia tested her home for meth residue.
Being inside the property for a little while, my opinion completely changed. I started to get a tickle in the back of my throat and I noticed that certain smell, the certain taste.Meth Detection Australia's Megan Liddicoat
“The result came back positive but I was pretty naive and thought we could fix the contamination,” she said.
“That’s not how it works though. I had to leave pretty much everything I owned, and was told to triple wrap everything and bury it.
“I joke that I left with my cats and a handbag but that really was pretty much it.”
Ms Liddicoat said when she attended Ms Rawlinson’s home to conduct the test, she initially didn’t think anything was wrong with the home.
“Being inside the property for a little while, my opinion completely changed,” she said.
“I started to get a tickle in the back of my throat and I noticed that certain smell, the certain taste.”
You might think Ms Rawlinson’s home was used as a meth lab to make her so sick, but it wasn’t. After some research, she found the meth was only smoked in the home.
Ms Rawlinson’s now working with Dr Jackie Wright, a researcher who specialises in the impacts and risks of second-hand exposure to methamphetamine.
While her health has been greatly impacted, Ms Rawlinson has also taken a financial hit, forced to buy furnishings for her new home.
“It’s funny things you don’t think of that you have to pay for like mops and buckets,” she said.
“I have great girlfriends who’ve helped me out and without them I’d probably be crying in a gutter.”
Ms Liddicoat and Ms Rawlinson are now pushing for major industry reform, with the hopes of having meth testing introduced for all rental properties.
“People are always going to do the wrong thing, but we can introduce this type of monitoring to ensure people are safe,” Ms Liddicoat said.
“The main priority is people’s safety, and everyone has a right to that.”
Ms Rawlinson said she didn’t want to see anyone else becoming sick from meth contamination.
“You don’t think you're going to move into a house and leave six months later without anything you own,” she said.
“I feel for families with little kids and babies. Imagine what could happen.”
Meth detection is serious business
It is no secret the Shoalhaven’s been hit hard by the nationwide ice scourge, and real estate agent Megan Liddicoat decided to do something about it, after noticing properties were being left worse for wear.
“I went to several properties and noticed something wasn’t quite right,” she said.
“These properties went from being neat and tidy to grubby with a bit of a smell.”
After some research, Ms Liddicoat said she quickly worked out that ice was the cause of the smells and grime.
“I did formal training in decontamination and that was initially just to protect myself,” she said.
“I live in the Shoalhaven and so does my family and I realised I didn’t want anyone put at risk.”
So she began a new business, Meth Detection Australia, which tests properties for ice residue.
When she’s called to undertake a detection test, she swabs the walls and surfaces of a home, then sends them to a lab in New Zealand for testing.
Since beginning the business two tears ago, she’s tested 40 Shoalhaven properties for meth, all of which have returned a positive result.
“People only call me when there’s a problem, so I don’t think its an actual representation of what’s going on in the Shoalhaven,” she said.
“I’m only called when people suspect or know there is a problem.”
After two years in the business, Ms Liddicoat can sense when ice has been smoked or produced in a home.
“Sometimes you can smell it before you even walk in the door,” she said.
Meth Detection Australia will be hosting a community information night in the Shoalhaven on February 25.
The event will be held at Bomaderry Bowling Club, with a talk from Australia’s leading methamphetamine residue professor Dr Jackie Wright.
For more information visit Meth Detection Australia on Facebook.