Environmental modelling of methylamphetamine waste

Helen Keenan, Lisa Kates, Robert Kalin, Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay, Niamh Nic Daeid, Charles Knapp

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The clandestine manufacture of methylamphetamine has been detected in over 60 countries worldwide. Methylamphetamine can be manufactured easily using a variety of common household chemicals and several different methods, or routes. Information on how to synthesise methylamphetamine is readily available on the Internet, publically accessible scientific journals, chemical patents and published books. The illicit manufacture of methylamphetamine produces a substantial amount of toxic waste. This waste is often dumped illegally, creating a source of environmental pollution. Environmental crime is perceived by criminals as low risk, high profit crime due to low detection and prosecution rates. In 2004, the European Commission put into place a directive (2004/35/CE) aimed at punishing polluters financially. This directive came into force by member states in 2007 and promotes the “polluters pay” principle. By determining the fate of methylamphetamine waste products, detection of pollution will be feasible. It is important to understand the partitioning behaviour of the waste in order to ensure samples are collected from the appropriate environmental compartment (air, water, soil and sediment). Additionally, knowledge of how long the waste will persist in the environment will give information as to the age of a dumpsite, and whether or not waste can be detected. Using the principles of environmental science and justice, clandestine chemists can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. While much work has been completed investigating the reaction impurities of clandestine methylamphetamine manufacture, little research has been conducted into profiling the waste. In this work, we present data on the environmental fate and distribution of methylamphetamine waste. Components of the waste were identified using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and subsequently input to a computer modelling programme. A fugacity model was produced using the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s computer modelling programme, EPISuite. A fugacity model calculates the tendency of a compound to partition into each environmental compartment at equilibrium. In order to improve on the default model, which uses inherent chemical and physical properties, a more accurate model can be obtained by measuring experimentally the partition coefficients Kd, Koc and Kow. This allows a site-specific model to be developed using the sediment-water partition coefficient and the octanol-water partition coefficient and other parameters that affect those values. This will aid in the understanding of the behaviour of methylamphetamine waste in the environment and will provide information for the investigation of a suspected dumpsite.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Sept 2011
EventInternational Association of Forensic Sciences - Funchal, Portugal
Duration: 12 Sept 201117 Sept 2011


ConferenceInternational Association of Forensic Sciences


  • environmental modelling
  • methylamphetamine
  • civil engineering


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