What it's like cleaning Mackay's meth labs, crime scenes
THEY are the unlikely heroes of Mackay.
They walk into toxic environments every day and do the jobs no one wants to do.
But these men in white suits usually fly under the radar.
They clean up when someone dies, remove meth residue from walls and transform hoarders' wastelands into liveable houses - dodging needles and rodents in their path.
These tasks come part and parcel for the Mackay crime and trauma cleaners.
Business owner Scott McFadzen said there was no doubt it was a confronting job.
The Daily Mercury sat down with the Mackay local to discuss the details normally kept behind closed doors.
The demand for meth testing was on the rise, Mr McFadzen said.
With an increase in the number of meth laboratories in the area, the importance of clearing homes of meth residue is vital. Meth testing is the first step, followed by a remediation action plan.
"We work closely with the police and real estate companies when dealing with meth residue," Mr McFadzen said.
"If there has been a meth lab, it's highly volatile so the police go in first and remove the utensils and clear the site.
"We go into the home and swab the aircons, the walls, above the oven, the sink, the laundry and the hallways.
"Testing for meth is so important because it's the type of residue that will stay in your house forever if not cleaned correctly.
"Being around meth residue can cause illness and even ADHD-like symptoms, it's extremely toxic."
Mr McFadzen suggested renters and home buyers look out for strange yellow staining on walls or an unusual odour when entering a house.
"The residue will stick to you and cause nausea, dizziness and headaches," he said.
SQUALOR & HOARDERS
If you have watched the show Hoarders on television, you would already have a brief insight into the state of homes Mackay crime and trauma cleaners often tackle.
Squalors, though, they are "another kettle of fish", Mr McFadzen said.
A squalor is usually defined as someone that can no longer look after themselves, they may have a mental disability and their house has gone into a state of severe disarray.
Mr McFadzen and his team have been attending hoarders and squalors homes in the Mackay region for more than 15 years.
"There is normally faecal waste on the floor, sometimes buckets of waste kept in a room, a toilet that hasn't been working for months but is still being used," Mr McFadzen said.
"We wear full PPE (personal protective equipment) because there is often used needles, sanitary items and even old catheter bags lining the floor."
Hoarders can often be sneaky, Mr McFadzen said.
"They normally hide their problem from their family," he said.
"You will go into a house and open the door and it's completely full to the ceiling of rubbish. But to the owner, it's their possessions.
"Because of all the rubbish, we normally find there will be masses of cockroaches, rats and other rodents living in the house."
On a recent job, Mr McFadzen attended a house where 54 cats, dogs, chooks and ducks were living.
"The house was littered with poo from all of the animals, it completely covered the floor," Mr McFadzen said.
"There were children living in the house too and that's what made it quite sad."
TRAUMA AND DEATH
Cleaning a home where someone has recently died is the most graphic side of the job for Mr McFadzen and his team.
"Crime and trauma clean up is not something everyone can do, it's very confronting," Mr McFadzen said.
"When the undertakers remove a body, there are still fragments and remaining body parts that we sometimes need to remove.
"If someone has been decomposing, it will affect the entire home.
"The fluids attract flies and maggots, so we have to clean wherever the flies have been tracking.
"We often have to remove pieces of the floor or walls because they can't be salvaged."
From blood seeping into the cracks of a home to skull pieces embedded in walls, Mr McFadzen said it was a graphic job .
He said it was important to "switch off" at the end of each day.
"I've got a really good wife and we make sure to talk about what I've seen," he said.
"If you don't treat it like just another job, you would never cope."