Last week, I wrote about Rhonda and Jason Holt, who found themselves and their young children plagued by strange illnesses as they lived in their spacious Winchester, TN home.

The New York Times reported that the Holts suffered from migraines, kidney problems, and worst of all, their three kids were sick, requiring steroids and frequent trips to the emergency room.

Most folks who read the post were disturbed. On Current, several readers left comments, including one, Bailey78, who remarked:

“Yep meth is some bad s***. I have seen many a friend lose every thing to it. I have seen many a vacant house turned into a tweeker shack. they just move right in after the owners get kicked out.”

So, home to foreclosure to meth house. Not a great neighborhood progression. Hire a home inspector to help you through the home buying process.

Red Flags of a Meth House

Several other readers asked me how you’d identify leftover meth – before you make an offer to buy the home. According to Trevor Welby-Solomon, a certified home inspector and vice president of technical training support and development for Pillar To Post, a nationwide home inspection company, it’s all about doing a thorough home inspection – and watching out for certain red flags:

Pillar to Post inspectors look for physical signs of a former meth house, including:

Yellow or red stain marks on countertops, carpets, or linoleum

Iodine stain marks on walls (see photo)

Blocked out windows

Burns in countertops, on rugs or on the floors

Discarded cylinders

Empty solvent jars or mason jars

Corroded gas cannisters

Blister packs of ephedrine

Evidence of anhydrous ammonia or hydrochloric acid

Plastic tubing

Rock salt or rock salt containers

Hydrogen peroxide bottles

Lithium batteries

Coffee filters with red stains

Unusual smells, such as a strong cat urine smell, ammonia, and vinegar.

According to Pillar to Posts’ Welby-Solomon, “Some home inspectors have left an inspection, gone home and have had very dry throats and dizziness. If the inspector suspects after his visual analysis that the home was a meth lab, then Pillar To Post has to be given the authority to take swab samples of residue (ashes, for example). That sample is sent to an outside independent lab to identify whether it’s meth residue.”

(If you’re worried that a house down the block or that you rent out is a meth house, the Boulder County, Colorado department of Public Health, says landlords (and neighbors) should be wary if windows are blacked out, payment by the tenant is only in cash, and there is a lot of traffic in and out of the house at all hours. Also watch for an excessive number of Coleman fuel or HEET containers.)

Websites For More Information on Meth Lab Houses

Here are some good websites I found that give more descriptions of things to watch out for if you suspect a house was a former meth lab: A mom started this site after her son bought a former meth house. Instructive photos.

Forensic Application Inspection Technologies Good descriptions of what to watch out for plus links.

Inspection Perfection, Dever, Co. The company sells a 10-second test for amphetamine and methamphetamine residue that is used by law enforcement agencies for $15 – available only to real estate professionals, according to the website.

Remember, meth labs are just one of the environmental and health risks associated with foreclosures, the credit crisis and the problems neighborhoods have had as a result of mortgage and credit problems and the current recession, Skillicorn says. Home inspections can help buyers identify various types of environmental and physical dangers in a home.

“We recently had a buyer get a home inspection who found out that there was 30 feet of copper piping ripped out of the house, as there had a been a vagrant living on the premises. Without a home inspection, she never would have known this until after having moved in,” Welby-Solomon adds.

If you’re going to buy a foreclosure, get an inspection. If you see any of the above signs, you may want to take a pass on the house. Endangering your health isn’t worth it.

Please leave your comments here.