Are you living in a former meth house?

Meth can be made anywhere, even in a car. Every year, thousands of Americans unknowingly buy homes or rent apartments that are contaminated with meth–making residue.

“I feel like I put them in harm’s way more so than I ever could have just staying where we were,” said homeowner Jennifer Nugent. “I regret moving so bad.”

Nugent and her husband spent thousands of dollars remodeling this home before moving in with their three children last year. A few months later, they were constantly sick – coughing, diarrhea and vomiting – but they couldn’t figure out why.

“It just got to a point where we couldn’t stay well,” Nugent added.

Nugent’s concern turned to panic when her new neighbors shared some disturbing news. The home’s former owner was a meth user. Nugent immediately had her home tested and results confirmed high levels of contamination.

“That’s when we knew it was bad and I was so grateful we did not return,” said Nugent.

The Nugents moved out in March and are now working with a certified company that specializes in meth lab testing and cleanup.

“We’re trying to put the family back together by putting the house back together,” said certified meth inspector Rick Held.

When making or smoking meth, nothing escapes contamination. A string of toxic chemicals saturates carpets, walls, ductwork, ceilings and furniture, forcing cleanup crews to throw away just about everything before thoroughly cleaning all surfaces. Exposure to even small amounts of those poisons can cause serious health issues, especially in small children.

“If you just think mold’s bad, no meth is worse, and I mean mold’s pretty bad, and asbestos, yeah sure, but meth is up there,” Held added.

Authorities discovered more than 11,000 meth labs across the country last year, but say that represents only a fraction of the number of homes where meth is made or used.

“The police, they’re trying to bust them all, but not everybody’s busted,” said Held. “Sort of like this house. It wasn’t busted. It’s not on a list.”

“Meth labs can be found anywhere,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “This is not a rural home problem. You can find them in suburban lovely homes to million dollar penthouses. So, you want to be aware of the dangers of a home that’s had a meth lab in it and be sure that you’re doing all of your research before buying.”

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

“A simple way to get great information on a house you’re considering buying is actually just to talk to the neighbors in the neighborhood,” Hicks added. “Knock on doors. Introduce yourself as looking at the house down the street and find out what you can. You’ll be amazed at the information they may be able to provide you.”

“My advice is despite the condition of the home just spend that extra $50 for your piece of mind to know that there is not meth in the house,” said Nugent.

The Nugents aren’t sure if they’ll ever return to the house. They’ve sued the seller and the home’s listing agent for damages. That lawsuit is pending. Angie’s List says disclosure regulations and decontamination laws vary by state, so make sure you do your research. If you suspect meth residue in your home, you can purchase a test kit for around $50. Decontamination jobs can cost up to $10,000.