When Anna and her family moved into their new home, they had no idea what they were in for.
Here, Anna Rushton, 38 from WA tells the story in her own words.
W￼iping the sweat from my brow, I peered around at the boxes stacked high in our brand new living room. ‘Where do we begin?’
I laughed to my husband, Ryan, 42. After outgrowing our last house, we decided it was time to move. But having sold our property to another family, we hadn’t yet found a home that suited our needs.
Instead of rushing into another purchase, we decided to rent for six months, just until we found something more suitable. ‘It’s such a great area,’ the real estate agent had told me. Peeking around, the house was in need of a good clean, but I could see the potential.
With a large gaming room and a pool in the backyard, I knew my sons, Xavier, 10, Noah, eight, and Elijah, six, would settle in just fine.
As I set about finding spots for our belongings, my head began to pound. The stress of moving must be getting to me, I thought.
So I decided to take a short break and grab some takeaway for dinner. The following day, I was determined to make quick work of unpacking the rest of the boxes.
‘Why don’t you go outside and play?’ I smiled to the kids, and they happily ran out into the backyard.
Tearing around, one of the boys accidentally knocked the pool ladder into the water. So Ryan fetched the pool scoop to drag it out. But as he picked up the net, he noticed a plastic bag stuffed into the end of the handle.
Pulling it out for a closer look, he saw it was filled with tiny clear crystals.‘You’ll never believe what I just found,’ he said as he rushed back inside to show me. Shocked, I recognised the substance from police shows on TV. ‘That’s ice,’ I said, stunned, referring to the street drug methamphetamine.
Feeling uneasy, I decided to go and talk about it with my neighbours. That’s when I learned that the previous tenants always had people dropping by the property. ‘We even found strangers [hiding] in
our bush one night,’ one neighbour admitted. Were they selling drugs? I wondered, frightened.
As questions filled my mind, my headache was stronger than ever.Phoning the police, I was advised to hand in the package to our local station right away. Next, I contacted a forensic surface testing company to determine whether our home had
been contaminated by harmful chemicals. Lying awake in bed that night, I was far too restless to sleep. By now my teeth were aching and my gums had started to bleed.
As the days passed, the boys complained of sore throats and feeling tired. One night, Noah was suffering from croup so severely we had to rush him to hospital. Could this be down to our new house? I wondered. Thankfully, he was discharged after a few hours.
The forensic team arrived to swab our home a week later. The results left me feeling absolutely horrified. Samples taken revealed that the toxic chemicals which make up meth covered almost every surface of our home. The reading showed it was 12 times above the level considered dangerous.
The brick walls were so porous the chemicals had just seeped into them. ‘This is a danger zone,’ said the woman from the testing company. ‘It’s the strongest readings I have seen in WA so far.’
Methamphetamine can cause health problems such as respiratory issues, blindness, psychosis and even heart attacks. Now it made sense why we’d all been so sick. I can’t believe my family have been poisoned by our house, I thought, broken.
Gathering some of our important belongings, I packed our bags straight away and arranged to stay with friends. But as a family of five, we didn’t want to be a burden on anyone long-term, so we decided to relocate to a hotel.
While the boys’ flu-like symptoms cleared up within a few days, I still felt really run down. Then I realised I’d forgotten to wash the pillowcases I’d grabbed while fleeing our home. Just two days after replacing them, I finally felt like myself again.
Despite seeing the chemical readings, our real estate agent wouldn’t reimburse us for the damage caused to our belongings and we had to foot the bill for the hotel. Add to that the fact we had to throw out our ice-infected furniture and electrical items, and we’ve been left $19,000 out of pocket.
For more, pick up this week's copy of that's life! - on sale now.