The science of Breaking Bad: Caballo Sin Nombre

Breaking Bad : Season 3 : Episode 2 : “Caballo Sin Nombre”

Walt and Walt Jr. fail to deal with the family break-up.

Walt and Walt Jr. fail to deal with the family break-up.

The components of season three are still being assembled this week, with the tendrils of the Walt’s drug-making past beginning to envelop him again. In this post, I’ll be talking about the dangers of basement meth labs.

You can read more about this episode at AMC, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Lab decontamination

Saul has an ace up his sleeve when he casually mentions the former meth lab in the basement – his leverage is the fraud, but the presence of a former lab would definitely cut the selling price of the house. The fact that a crime was committed on the premises (in this case, several crimes) isn’t really a problem; what sends people running from the estate agent is the contamination. As we’ve seen in previous seasons, the manufacture of methamphetamine uses and produces several smelly and/or dangerous chemicals – not an issue if you’re cooking in the middle of the desert, but a major health hazard in an unventilated basement.

There are several ways that a workspace can be contaminated – the most obvious is through spills and accidents, but perhaps the most insidious is through gradual accumulation. Wood, textiles, earth and other materials found in homes are all quite porous and will absorb any chemicals on them or present in the air. These chemicals will then be released over a period of days, months or even years (depending on their volatility), resulting in long-term exposure for whoever’s living in the house (this is similar to chronic radon poisoning). Many of the materials used to make methamphetamine are toxic (such as mercury), carcinogenic (such as acetone formaldehyde) or irritating to the eyes and lungs.

Unfortunately for Jesse’s parents (and possibly Jesse now), the owner of a house is responsible for cleaning up any cook site found on it. Depending on the level of contamination (which can be determined by sampling and analysis), this may be a matter of cleaning and ventilating, scrubbing and painting or even removing and destroying entire rooms.

Elements in the credits

Breaking Bromine
Bad Barium
Created Chromium
Bryan Cranston Bromine
AnNa Gunn Sodium
AAron Paul Argon
DeaN Norris Nitrogen
Betsy Brandt Beryllium
RJ MitTe Tellurium
Giancarlo Esposito Einsteinium
BOb Odenkirk Oxygen
JonAthan Banks Astatine
TesS Harper Sulfur
Mark MargoLis Lithium
Christopher Cousins Cobalt
Steven MicHael Quezada Hydrogen
Michael BofshevEr Erbium
Dan DesmoNd Neodymium
Luis Moncada Lutetium
Daniel Moncada Molybdenum
KelleY Dixon Yttrium
Mark FreeboRn Radon
MiChael Slovis Carbon
Dave Porter Polonium
Sharon Bialy Sulfur
SherrY Thomas Yttrium
Diane MerCer Cerium
Moira Walley-Beckett Molybdenum
Thomas SchnAuz Gold
George Mastras Germanium
PeTer Gould Tellurium
Sam Catlin Calcium
John ShiBan Barium
Melissa Bernstein Beryllium
MicHelle MacLaren Helium
Mark JOhnson Oxygen
StewArt A. Lyons Argon
PetEr Gould Erbium
AdAm Bernstein Americium
Vince Gilligan Vanadium

2 Responses to The science of Breaking Bad: Caballo Sin Nombre

  1. diego says:

    Sorry but acetone isn’t carcinogenic.

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