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Health expert says he 'wouldn't be concerned about public health' after meth contamination at libraries

Three libraries have closed due to meth contamination since Dec. 22.
Bemis Public Library
Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-20 00:07:58-05

Meth contamination has forced three libraries and an RTD transit facility bathroom to shut down since Dec. 22.

Boulder closed its main library last month after meth reside was found in its restrooms and seating area. It reopened nearly three weeks later, and the cleaning cost the city $225,000.

Then it was the RTD transit facility station's restrooms in downtown Boulder.

Following Boulder's testing, the City of Englewood decided to test its library and civic center on Jan. 6. The tests came back positive for meth contamination, forcing the temporary closure of the Englewood Public Library and parts of the Englewood Civic Center.

Then Littleton city officials decided to proactively test the Bemis Public Library. The city announced Wednesday it would be closing the library after those tests came back positive for "elevated levels" of meth in the restrooms.

Pikes Peak Library District in El Paso County announced Thursday it will proactively test the public restrooms at its 15 locations for meth contamination.

“I wouldn't be concerned about public health,” said Mike Van Dyke, associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Mostly because people won't be able to access those spaces and they're not gonna spend much time there."

Van Dyke says the state of Colorado established a residential cleanup level, which is based on a young child's exposure to meth in an entire home.

“So thinking about this young child or infant crawling through the house touching surfaces every day 24 hours a day,” he explained. "In terms of really applying that regulation to public space, it's kind of an inappropriate number to apply to those spaces because you don't have the same kind of exposure."

Van Dyke says this level is tricky for public facilities.

“They’re in a tough situation from a legal and risk management situation,” he said. “As soon as you sample it and find it, you have a responsibility to do something."

Van Dyke says the best thing facilities can do to protect public health is prevention, including frequent cleaning of touchable surfaces. He says that non-porous surfaces can be easily cleaned with general cleaning products. Porous surfaces, like carpet and upholstery, are harder to clean and may need replaced, according to Van Dyke.

For visitors and staff, Van Dyke says nothing beats consistent hand washing with soap and water.

Van Dyke says the state changes regulations when it comes to cleaning standards and says it will likely continue to change in the future, stressing it's not a fast process.