|By Katie Tammen, Northwest Florida Daily
News, Fort Walton BeachMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 04, 2012--Housekeeping staff at Florida's hotels and motels might soon have new responsibilities if a set of health standards being pushed locally are implemented.
State Rep. Matt Gaetz and his father, Sen. Don Gaetz, are working with several state agencies to implement new regulations designed to protect visitors from the hazards left by methamphetamine labs set up in lodging establishments.
"When our law enforcement officials go into these hotel rooms, they wear full hazmat suits and masks," Matt Gaetz said. "But, absent some sort of action, 48 (or) 72 hours later somebody could have their 3-year-old toddler crawling around in toxic waste."
Currently, when law enforcement officers are notified of a meth lab inside a hotel room, they come in and clean up the leftover equipment and chemicals, slap a sticker on the door that says toxic chemicals are inside and leave, Gaetz said. At that point, it's up to the hotel owner either to rent the room again or do a more thorough cleaning for chemical residue likely left behind.
"It's really frightening to think that someone could be exposed to toxic chemicals and not even know it," said Gaetz, who noted that chemicals used to manufacture meth are known to cause liver failure and various forms of cancer.
He said the goal is to work with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Health Department and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish a protocol to remove meth residue from rooms before they are rented again.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation has agreed to support the effort, but the Gaetzes do not want to stop there.
They also are working with agencies such as the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to offer training sessions for motel housekeepers to help them identify signs that a meth lab was set up in a room.
"If we only go after those which we find, there still could be a health risk. We have to shatter the business model," Matt Gaetz said. "There's a quick checklist that we could have voluntary training on where we would actually catch more of these people, and if we start catching the perpetrators and prosecuting them, we can crush this cooking method."
(c)2012 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)
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