Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says criminals are making methamphetamine in plastic drinking bottles at hotels throughout the city and he says some hotels aren't properly cleaning the rooms.
"Those chemicals can seep into a lot of the building materials, the walls, furniture, carpeting, any kind of upholstery or linens," said Tara Kinney, Forensic Drug Chemist with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
This year the sheriff's department uncovered 23 meth sites; that's four times as many than they uncovered two years ago. Seven of those were at hotels.
"A lot of these hotels are lower end hotels so they can rent a cheap room, it is out of the public eye, they can go in there and the process only takes an hour."
Kinney is a Forensics Drug Chemist with the sheriff's department and says they are finding that after a bust is made, the room is often not being cleaned by a professional contractor.
"There is no one that oversees the clean up process, it is up to the hotel manager to clean that site before renting that room again and unfortunately a lot of them are not doing that."
"Because they are not informed they are putting their businesses and facilities in pretty grave danger," said Dr. Bryan Fox with Palmetto Health.
Fox says that it is important to clean the rooms once law enforcement clears the scene because the fumes can also travel to nearby rooms.
He says there are various symptoms that you can experience from being exposed.
"You will have a shortness of breath, coughing, burning sensations in the nose and throat."
Fox says you won't start feeling symptoms until hours after being exposed to the toxic fumes. The sheriff's department is now putting a warning on rooms that meth has been made in.
"It is a warning sticker that will be placed on the front door of the residence or hotel room door, specifically to the entrance of that room," said Kinney.
Starting next year the sheriff's department will also start listing the names of every bust that occurs at a hotel on their website.