Colorado library closes after 'troubling' discovery of meth in the air ducts

people in a library lobby at the bottom of a staircase
People look at literature for sale at the Boulder Public Library.Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
  • A Boulder, Colorado library closed after testing revealed meth contamination in the bathrooms.

  • After a spike in reports of people smoking in the bathrooms, several employees got sick.

  • The contaminated areas require professional clean-up and the bathrooms may never reopen, the city said.

A public library in Boulder, Colorado closed after testing revealed methamphetamine contamination in bathrooms and seating areas.

The library first closed on December 20, 2022. In a Wednesday update, the City of Boulder said that further testing had identified "nearly all" the contamination was on the surfaces and in the air ducts of public-facing bathrooms. Meth was also found in some high-traffic seating areas, according to the statement.

The city said these areas would require professional clean-up, and the furniture in the seating areas may be replaced with something that can be cleaned regularly.

"It is not yet clear if, and when, public restrooms will be brought back," the update said.

The library building could reopen on Tuesday at the earliest.

"This is truly a sad situation and represents the impact of a widespread epidemic in our country," David Farnan, the city's library director, said in a statement.

Crystal Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)
Crystal Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth).REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

The city first ordered testing after a spike in reports of people smoking in the library's public restrooms, and two incidents where employees reported symptoms consistent with exposure to meth. Medical staff evaluated and cleared those employees, Farnan said.

Symptoms of meth exposure include nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, and respiratory irritation.

"Meth contamination is not primarily transmitted through air. The issue is the residue on surfaces that individuals can come into direct contact with, through touch, and then transmit on their skin and clothing to other surfaces," the update said.

According to the city, risk of serious health effects from one-off exposures is low.

"Nonetheless, the results in the impacted areas are troubling," the update said.

The city said it was awaiting a full report and results from the contractor it hired for environmental testing. With that information, the city said it would confer with its health department to plan clean-up and reopening, and release the results within a week.

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