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Iodine/red phosphorus. The principal chemicals are ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, iodine, and red phosphorus. The required hydriodic acid in this variation of the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus method is produced by the reaction of iodine in water with red phosphorus. This method yields high quality d-methamphetamine. Another iodine/red phosphorus method, limited to small production batches, is called the cold cook method because the chemicals, instead of being heated, are placed in a hot environment such as in direct sunlight.
The federal government regulates the sale of iodine crystals, which are readily available for legitimate uses. However, it is illegal to import, export, purchase, or sell iodine crystals in the United States if they are used or intended to be used in the production of methamphetamine. Typically methamphetamine producers acquire iodine crystals through theft or diversion, from Mexican criminal groups that smuggle iodine into the United States across the U.S.-Mexico border, or by purchasing and crystallizing iodine tincture, the sale of which is not regulated in most U.S. states.
Hydriodic acid can be produced by combining iodine crystals with water and some form of phosphorus, including red phosphorus, hypophosphorous acid, or phosphorous acid. In the methamphetamine production process, iodine crystals may be used to prepare hydriodic acid in a separate step or may be introduced directly into the synthesis of the methamphetamine.
Small-scale methamphetamine producers who are unable to obtain iodine crystals occasionally produce them from iodine tincture by mixing iodine tincture with hydrogen peroxide. This is a time-consuming process that yields a very small amount of iodine crystals in relation to the amount of tincture and hydrogen peroxide used.
Iodine tincture for human antiseptic use on wounds and scrapes usually is sold in small quantities, typically in 1-ounce bottles containing 2 percent iodine. These small bottles are sold for $1 to $2. "Strong" iodine tincture (7% concentration) for veterinary use is sold in various sizes from 16-ounce bottles to 50-gallon drums. A 16-ounce bottle of strong iodine is sold for $4 to $6. The primary ingredients in iodine tincture are ethyl alcohol and water.
Iodine tincture is not regulated by law and is sold in retail stores, pharmacies, and farm supply stores. It can be obtained easily via the Internet from horse and farm supply sites and online pharmacies.
Iodine crystals are widely available and have the following legitimate uses:
As a derivative used to make chemicals and polymers, sanitation and cleaning compounds, pharmaceuticals, nylon fibers, dyes and ink, and photographic film
As a developer to help crime scene investigators discover latent fingerprints on paper surfaces
As a nutritional supplement in table salt
As a common ingredient in dietary supplements for livestock
As an element in the production of electric light bulbs
As a water purification and swimming pool sanitization chemical
As a topical antiseptic for humans, horses, and cattle after the crystals are made into iodine tincture
Iodine crystals may be purchased from a variety of businesses. Crystals typically are available for sale at chemical supply stores, feed and tack stores, and veterinary clinics and suppliers. Iodine also is widely available on the Internet. One online pharmacy, for example, sells iodine crystals in ounce quantities for approximately $14. One pound of iodine crystals retails for approximately $160. A rancher with a large farm typically may use up to 2 ounces to treat a herd in 1 year. A methamphetamine producer, on the other hand, may use 2 to 4 pounds to produce 1 pound of methamphetamine.
Companies in several countries throughout the world produce and sell iodine crystals commercially. Chilean companies were the world's largest producers of iodine in 2000, followed by Japanese and U.S. companies. Overall, worldwide iodine production increased from 13,726 tons in 1994 to 18,993 tons in 2000. Iodine crystal producers sell the chemical to companies that either use iodine in manufacturing processes or sell it wholesale.
The possession, distribution, and use of listed chemicals, including iodine, are subject to the following prohibitions: 21 U.S.C. ? 841(c)(1)-(3) prohibits any person from knowingly or intentionally possessing or distributing a listed chemical with the intent, knowledge, or belief that the chemical will be used to manufacture a controlled substance. It also prohibits a person from knowingly or intentionally evading established recordkeeping or reporting requirements.
Source: U.S. Attorney Eastern District of Oklahoma; Associated Press.
Further, 21 U.S.C. ? 843(a)(7) prohibits any person from knowingly or intentionally manufacturing, distributing, exporting, or importing any equipment, chemical product, or material that may be used to manufacture a controlled substance or listed chemical. The maximum penalties for each violation of 21 U.S.C. ? 841(c)(1)-(3) or 21 U.S.C. ? 843(a)(7) are 10 years' imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both. Penalties are doubled for second or subsequent convictions.
In California iodine sales and purchases are subject to even more stringent regulation. Section 11107.1 of the California Health and Safety Code requires recordkeeping of all iodine crystal sales regardless of the amount, and sales are limited to 8 ounces of iodine in a 30-day period to any individual. The seller must retain the original bill of sale for 3 years and maintain a record of sale that includes the purchaser's name, address, driver's license number or other state-issued identification number, license plate number, and a description of how the purchaser will use the iodine. Both the purchaser and seller must sign the record. The purchaser must also maintain a record for 3 years that includes the place and date of purchase, a description of the purchase, the quantity purchased, and the cost of the purchase. The records maintained by both the seller and purchaser must be made available to law enforcement upon request. The sale of iodine tincture in the amount of $100 or less is exempt from these requirements.
Individuals attempting to divert iodine to produce methamphetamine may exhibit one or more of the following suspicious behaviors:
Customer does not have a legitimate reason to purchase iodine or cannot justify the quantity requested.
Customer purchases iodine crystals for animal use but has little knowledge of horses, cattle, or other livestock.
Customer resists providing personal information.
Customer repeatedly purchases the maximum amount permitted by law at the shortest interval permitted.
Customer simultaneously purchases iodine and other products that are used to produce methamphetamine such as acetone, alcohol, camp stove fuel, ether, drain cleaner, muriatic acid, rock salt, road flares, unusual quantities of matches, or the cutting agent MSM.
Customer purchases over 4 fluid ounces of iodine tincture and purchases hydrogen peroxide at the same time.
Methamphetamine producers also obtain iodine crystals from Mexican criminal groups that smuggle the crystals from Mexico into the United States. U.S. Customs Service (USCS) seizures of iodine at ports of entry (POE) along the U.S.-Mexico border increased from approximately 780 kilograms in 2000 to approximately 2,140 kilograms in 2001. Most seizures occurred in Southern California at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa POEs. Seizures also were made at POEs in Arizona and Texas.
Law enforcement officers who come into contact with iodine crystals should exercise extreme caution when handling, storing, or transporting the chemical. Boots, gloves, eye protection, and respiratory gear should be worn when exposure to iodine is likely. Although iodine alone is not flammable, it is a strong oxidizer that can ignite or cause explosions when mixed with other combustibles or reducing agents such as alkali metals, ammonia, and phosphorus. Iodine should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight, drastic temperature changes, and chemical substances that react violently when mixed with iodine.
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