By Alex Fees
Creve Coeur, MO (KSDK) - The director of the burn center at Creve Coeur's Mercy Hospital says at any given time, as many as 25 percent of patients in the burn unit may be suffering burns related to methamphetamine production.
"The new, what they call 'shake and bake,' or the 'one-pot' meth labs really have become more common over the last few years. And we've seen a significant increase in number of patients we've treated for burns from meth labs," said Dr. Michael Smock, Director of the Mercy Burn Center.
Smock said emergency room personnel are learn to recognize meth burns.
"These can cause very serious injuries, often involving the hands, arms, and face," he said, "because it's frequently something a person is working on in front of their body. Extensive second and third-degree burns to those areas. They can get significant damage to their eyes and damage internally as well from inhalation of either the explosion, the heat, or the chemicals."
Smock said often times people who happen to be around the meth lab are burned.
"Absolutely, yes," he said. "We see innocent bystanders who are simply in the vicinity of a meth lab. Or the fire that it then causes. There have been fatalities from people who have been in adjacent apartments, and they are unable to escape when the cause was a fire in the adjacent apartment."
Smock said treatment for such burns comes at a cost.
"Anybody with a serious burn injury that requires admission to a burn unit is racking up hospital bills of thousands of dollars a day, and they may have a hospital stay of several months at a time. And after that they need months and years of rehabilitation and possibly reconstructive surgery and therapy services that can go on for months at a time."
Still, Smock said states where lawmakers have required prescriptions for cold-related pseudoephedrine have seen a "very significant" reduction in the number of meth labs, mobile or otherwise.