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Law enforcement officials in West Virginia say they have seized 200 methamphetamine labs so far in 2013, and are on track to shatter last year’s record of 288 meth lab seizures.

Authorities predict they will seize about 570 meth labs this year, the Saturday Gazette-Mail reports.”It’s a true public health emergency, and the problem now appears to be more widespread across the state,” said Dr. Dan Foster, a former state senator who sponsored a measure designed to reduce the number of meth labs.

The average size of the seized labs has decreased, noted Mike Goff, a state Board of Pharmacy administrator and former State Police trooper. “A lot of it is the ‘shake and bake,’ or ‘one-pot’ method,” he said. “You used to have one guy cooking for 20 people. Now 10 of those people are cooking it for themselves.”

He noted smaller meth labs can be just as dangerous as larger ones, because meth makers use plastic soda bottles to make the drug. “With the plastic bottles, they’re more of a fire hazard,” Goff said. “It’s a much simpler and quick process, but it’s equally dangerous.”

Last year, the state passed a bill that requires statewide electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine, a cold medicine used in making meth. The law also limits pseudoephedrine purchases to three boxes per month, and 20 per year. Dr. Foster says meth makers pay people to buy pseudoephedrine, in order to get around monthly and yearly limits. “They just get different people or fake IDs,” he said.

In January, all pharmacies in West Virginia began reporting to a state tracking system, which allows law enforcement officials to see who is buying pseudoephedrine.

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