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Their unborn baby tested positive for meth. Then they discovered their new home used to be a meth lab

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Posted at 1:04 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 11:19:44-04

Tyler and Elisha Hessel were elated to find out they were expecting their first child.

But then Elisha Hessel's early pregnancy blood tests showed something unusual. She and her baby girl tested positive for amphetamines.

“When they called me, I didn't know what that meant," Hessel told KSDK. "So, I asked the nurse if that meant like, drugs in general. She basically just said, 'yes' and asked me if I could explain that.”

The couple has never been around meth, KSDK reports. The two have no criminal history of drug use.

So how did meth get into Hessel's blood? And more importantly, what did it mean for the couple's baby?

"Through process of elimination, Tyler and Elisha's home was tested for meth contamination," a GoFundMe page for the couple reads. "To their horror, their home, which they had recently purchased together, tested positive for unsafe levels of methamphetamines!"

According to Hessel it was "through speaking with neighbors and kind of getting hints here and there" that the couple discovered their home used to be a meth lab.

The expecting mom bought an at-home drug testing kit online and found unsafe levels of amphetamines in their home. More testing showed the home's ventilation system was heavily contaminated with methamphetamine and meth-making residue, KSDK reports.

In Missouri, sellers are required to disclose if their property was used as a site for methamphetamine production. And the county the Hessels were living in, Jefferson County, goes beyond state requirements with an ordinance that says law enforcement officials will test for contamination in a home if they find an active meth lab or enough equipment and chemicals that they suspect someone is making meth.

If the home is too dangerous, officials are supposed to condemn the home until it's properly cleaned. That didn't happen with the Hessels' home. Records show the house became property of the bank in 2016, went to another buyer and then became the couple's home. The expecting parents found the home on the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office list of meth lab seizures for 2013.

The chemicals used in methamphetamine production are highly toxic, which is why former meth labs need to be cleaned properly before being livable, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

"Many of the contaminants present during meth’s cooking process can be harmful if someone is exposed to them," the Missouri health department says. "These contaminants can cause health problems including respiratory (breathing) problems, skin and eye irritation, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Acute (short-term) exposures to high concentrations of some of these chemicals, such as those law enforcement officers face when they first enter a lab, can cause severe health problems including lung damage and burns to different parts of the body."

Less is known about the long-term effects of being exposed to meth. But studies have shown that children are more vulnerable to the harmful, long-term effects of meth exposure than adults.

Hessel told CBS News that their baby girl "is right on track, growing healthy and her scans all look good at this time" despite testing positive for meth.

However, as far as their housing situation goes, the Hessels have few options, according to a GoFundMe fundraiser.

"After countless visits to the lawyer and conversations with the bank, county, and insurance company, Tyler and Elisha were unable to receive answers as to why their home was sold before it was remediated and never disclosed," the GoFundMe description reads. "They were ultimately left with just one choice: remediate the contamination by stripping the house down to the studs and rebuilding. This process would cost them well over $100,000, with no help from the insurance company."

According to KSDK, the couple couldn't afford the retainer for a lawyer who offered to take the home insurance company to court.

The family is now staying with Elisha Hessel's mother, but was forced to leave behind all their possessions at the old home due to the meth contamination. Their baby girl is due in January. Hessel set-up a nursery at her mom's house.

“Everybody wants to have their own home when they bring their baby home,” Hessel said. “A lot of it's the disappointment and being upset over it, but I have definitely been angry over it as well.”

There are multiple sources out there to help people check properties for past meth use, including the National Clandestine Laboratory Register and an i nteractive drug den map from rehabs.com.

Anyone who wants to help the Hessels clean-up their home can contribute to the GoFundMe fundraiser for the family.