Casey has a Ph.D. in sociology and has 15 years of experience in academia.
One topic I always find interesting is looking at children and how they are effected by exposure to crime or from committing crimes themselves. Children can be victims of crimes when their parents are committing criminal activity within their home. This is the case when parents manufacture drugs like methamphetamine. Meth labs can cause health problems for children living in the same place it is manufactured. Being exposed to criminal activity by parents can also lead to social consequences in the future and can cause children to grow up to be criminals themselves.
Children Not Victims?
At one time methamphetamine production was viewed as a victimless crime. This means that under law a crime is seen as having no real victim because parties involved consent to participating in the crime. Because of this, at one time, children were not considered victims in cases where children were found living in homes containing meth labs. Children were often ignored by laws before the 1970's and child protection laws were often non-existent. It wasn't until the 1970's that the first child protection laws were passed by the federal government in the United States.
In early criminal law, children living or located at illegal meth lab sites were rarely interviewed as potential witnesses, evaluated for physical or psychological damage, or ensured to be placed in proper and safe environments. Children were ignored in early laws and their protection was not a consideration in criminal cases involving meth labs. It wasn't after the 1970's laws began to change to take into account children and how to protect them in cases where they were abused or parents neglected their care.
Modern Changes In Laws To Protect Children
Today, criminal law is more evolved to protect children and recognizes how harmful meth labs are to childrens' health and well-being. Law enforcement, medical, and social service professionals show growing awareness of the physical, developmental, emotional, and psychosocial damage to these children.
The age related behaviors of young children (frequent hand-to-mouth contact and physical contact with their environment) increase the likelihood that they will inhale, absorb, or ingest toxic chemicals, drugs, or contaminated food. They are also highly vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemical exposures. Children may be subjected to fires and explosions, abuse and neglect, hazardous lifestyles, social problems, and other risks.
Traumatizing and Unhealthy Environments For Children
Children living in homes where a meth lab exists is correlated to negative psychological and physical consequences. Children are exposed to harmful chemicals that can make them sick. Children in homes with meth labs may also be abused by their parents or guardians. Meth labs are dangerous and create a hostile environment for children to be raised in.
Health Effects of Meth Labs On Children
Children exposed to meth labs can inhale fumes or can get residue on their hands which could potentially get ingested. There are a number of symptoms that appear in children exposed to meth. Meth exposure for children can result in kids becoming extremely sick or in death.
Meth lab residue can stick to walls, floors, counter tops, clothing, toys, eating utensils, etc. Children who live at meth lab sites are exposed to harmful chemicals all over their environment making them extremely susceptible to exposure. It is very difficult to clean meth residue from a housing structure and simple cleaning techniques may be ineffective in removing meth chemicals from a home.
Meth labs are also a fire hazard and if the manufacturers of meth are careless or overheat chemicals it can result in fire or explosions. If parents aren't monitoring children while using heat they can get burned. They could also knock over manufacturing equipment or start fires (source).
Symptoms of Meth Exposure For Children
Increased heart rate
high blood pressure
respiratory issues (struggles breathing, coughing, shortness of breath)
burns from heat
kidney, lung, immune system damage
Children Traumatized And May Grow Up To Be Delinquents
Children raised in meth lab environments experience stress and trauma which impact their behavioral, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Children may be victims of physical or sexual abuse. They are often neglected and may disassociate from other human beings as a coping mechanism.
Children in homes with meth labs often exhibit low self-esteem, a sense of shame, and poor social skills. They also may suffer from emotional and mental health problems, delinquency, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, school absenteeism and failure, isolation, and poor peer relations. Without effective intervention, many will imitate their parents and caretakers when they themselves become adults and will engage in criminal or violent behavior including alcohol and drug abuse.
Flaws In The Modern Legal System
A coordinated multidisciplinary response is needed to care for children found at meth lab sites to ensure the child’s needs are met and to gather support for management and prosecution of cases. Personnel who respond to seizures of illegal drug laboratories and conduct investigations may be from a variety of groups including law enforcement, social services, prosecution, environmental health, and medical disciplines.
Each group uses their own agencies protocols. Multidisciplinary work may not exist and protocols may not coordinate and overlap complicating issues. Children’s needs may be overlooked or assumed to be taken care of by another agency. There may also be a failure to remove children from dangerous situations and a failure to gather evidence of child endangerment. Coordinated multidisciplinary investigations enhance information gathering, evidence integrity, interventions, and comprehensive treatment services for children and their families.
Overall, the topic of children and how they are impacted by being exposed to meth labs is very interesting. Historically children were ignored in terms of law making, and now in modern times laws have changed to protect children better than in the past. Overall, meth labs are extremely harmful for children to be exposed to and there are extreme consequences.
Meth Houses: This is what a house looks like when it’s used as a meth lab
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.