This time, cattle are killed; next time it may be people

MLive.com
Everything Michigan

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Police have often warned that not only is methamphetamine a dangerous drug, but many of the chemicals used to produce it—in this particular case, the fertilizer anhydrous ammonia—are a danger all by themselves.

But the deaths of about 30 head of beef cattle and the sickening or blinding of about 70 more on a Richland Township farm earlier this week—animals felled by vapors after thieves broke into a tank of anhydrous ammonia—demonstrate the danger of this chemical and the difficulty of keeping it away from meth manufacturers.

In this case, thieves left a tank valve open, allowing anhydrous ammonia vapors to seep into a nearby barn, killing and injuring the cattle.

But thieves put themselves and others at risk when they transport stolen anhydrous ammonia in everyday containers that are not designed to contain it properly. Thermoses, coolers, propane tanks and gasoline cans are often used to cart away this volatile chemical that is stored at minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit and vaporizes on contact with air. Contact with its vapors can cause freezing, dehydration and caustic burns. Breathing its vapors can cause suffocation.

As meth manufacturers move their labs from isolated wooded areas into homes, apartments and even hotel rooms, they expose more innocent people to the dangers of meth production—not only from caustic vapors, but also from explosions and fires that sometimes occur when meth manufacturers make a mistake.

This week, an anhydrous ammonia heist left 100 head of cattle sick or dead. People who notice suspicious activity near farms or farm suppliers can call the Southwest Enforcement Team at 962-1225 to report it.

It is not the first time that property has been destroyed to feed this terrible addiction. Our concern is the next time it could be innocent people.

© 2005 Kalamazoo. Used with permission

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