Monday, March 27, 2006

Student Helps Homeowners Detect Meth

Today's THV

No longer will new residents in a home or apartment have to tear out a piece of wall to find out if they're exposing themselves to potentially harmful residues from methamphetamine manufacture.

Jennifer Wu says you may have to remove a piece of wall to determine just how high the risk is, if you discover you're living in a former meth house. But she says it shouldn't cost much to determine if there's any risk at all. Exposure to the chemicals used to cook meth can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, eyes, nose, throat and skin.

Wu is a student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs. She developed a chemical formula that can be brushed on a wall. If it turns a certain color, you've got problems.

Wu recently won the overall first prize at the school's West-Central Regional Science Fair with her testing formula. She is quick to point out the limitations of her formula. The color result can show if there's any residue at all, but she can only provide a range of toxicity.

She recommends a partnership with the state Crime Lab. If a test is positive, contact the Crime Lab for additional tests.

Jenni Perry, a forensic chemist with the Illicit Lab Section of the Arkansas State Crime Lab, has worked with Wu on her project. Perry said Wu had made a pretty significant breakthrough. She said there could be a nationwide market.

Wu, who has been accepted to attend Harvard University this fall, is working to get her process patented, and then market it to consumers.


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