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Within its four walls, every home holds secrets. But some things about your house's past may remain in the dark and that could mean potential danger for you and your family once you move in.
Former meth labs are going under the radar in Maryland, putting you at risk.
ABC2 Investigators found what authorities believed was a former meth lab inside a home in Frederick County. The house is in a quiet, upscale neighborhood and carries a $500,000 price tag.
Neighbor Rahul Nagal says he had no idea the house had ties to a criminal past.
But there seemed to be plenty of trouble brewing inside this brick-fronted colonial when the feds busted renters for allegedly cooking methamphetamine in 2008.
Nagal says, "I don't think anybody knows."
Sealed lips in situations like this may protect neighborhood reputations, but do they put some people at risk?
Maryland Police Sergeant Dave Keller says yes when it comes to homes that have been used for cooking methamphetamine.
He explains, "It absolutely sticks around. It's chemicals. It's not going to dissipate. It clings there."
Making meth uses harmful chemicals and even when the lab itself is gone, Keller says, the danger remains.
The chemicals can spill into the carpet, soak into the wallboard and even seep up from the drain.
But if a meth head gets busted or moves out, no one has to say a word when you move in. In Maryland, disclosure about the criminal past of a home is optional.
Unlike other states, there are no regulations requiring landlords or home sellers to let you know you about houses that once hosted a meth operation.
But experts like Keller say you could face serious health problems if you don't know.
He says, "It's really going to be more of a respiratory type thing. Certainly if you have small children, little kids take things to their mouth.
They're going to eat whatever is on their hands. That could be meth."
INTERACTIVE | 11 Signs your home was used as a meth lab
The situation is so dangerous police take extra precautions when they're raiding a house. But what about the meth homes that go under the radar?
Maryland State Police Lieutenant Mark Rodeheaver admits, "I'm sure there are labs out there that as law enforcement, we don't know about."
State Police in Maryland say they've discovered at least 13 meth labs since 2004. But there could be more and the stats are hard to track so it's tough for you to get the information you need because the cases could be handled by local, state or federal agencies.
The Drug Enforcement Administration put a meth lab database on their website. It's maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice and allows you to click state by state to see if your house or your neighbor's has been busted for meth.
DEA spokesman Rusty Payne says, "It's just to give people an idea of the possibility that there may have been drug activity in the area."
But even the DEA admits the database is really just a best guess. Those who use it will first encounter a lengthy disclaimer because the DEA doesn't actually verify whether people who lived at the addresses on the website were ever truly busted for meth.
We asked why the information is published if it's not always credible.
Payne explains, "Because I think it's important for people to understand and know that there's drug activity in their area, potentially."
We went to a neighborhood in Woodstock in Baltimore County that made the DEA's Clandestine Laboratory Register.
People there remembered a big bust back in 2010. Sherrie Bowman says, "There was DEA and bomb squad and all sorts of stuff. We were all trying to figure out what it was."
In the end though, it was nothing. Baltimore County Police tell us they investigated a meth lab inside this home, but found no drugs. Still, the property is listed on the federal list. Neighbor Bog Diggins says, "They didn't file any charges, nobody got charged with anything."
In situations like that, people may get conflicting information about meth busts, potentially making it easy for some homes to keep secrets.
Rahul Nagal says the meth bust in his neighborhood isn't something that gets discussed, even with the newest people to move in.
He says, "I haven't brought it up to them. I don't see a reason to." One potential reason could be that silent neighbors make some wish that walls could talk.
With the latest one-pot meth cooking methods, homes aren't the only labs. Cooks use everything from hotel rooms to storage spaces and barns to make meth. And when it comes to clean-up, that can be a big problem.
It's an expensive process and there's no national or state standard for making sure a house is safe to move back into, even though experts say the remnants of a lab can be incredibly harmful. Right now in Maryland, anyone convicted in a meth bust is supposed to cover the clean-up bill for the home used in the manufacturing of the drug.
INTERACTIVE | 11 Signs your home was used as a meth lab
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