"We're finding them under bridges, in motel rooms, up in the woods, in the trunks of cars, in backpacks," Rutherford said. "It's just not in houses anymore."
Meth-related costs -- for lab cleanups, investigations, officer training, special clothing and equipment -- continue to escalate, Rutherford said.
Kanawha County had to purchase a "meth [cleanup] truck" that cost $125,000, and train eight technicians who respond to meth lab busts.
"There's a tremendous cost in what law enforcement has to do," Rutherford said. "It's unbelievable."
The meth labs pose a significant health hazard to the public, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief health officer at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
"It's as toxic as any haz-mat [hazardous-material] cleanup," Gupta said.
The clandestine labs also are putting children's lives in danger, said Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood.
"Kids are at 50 percent of the homes where raids are taking place," he said. "The thing it's doing to kids is unbelievable."
In recent years, West Virginia lawmakers have twice killed bills that would have required people to get a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine. Pharmacies keep the medication behind their counters, and customers must show a photo ID to buy it.
Two states, Oregon and Mississippi, have laws that make pseudoephedrine prescription-only.
Marshall Fisher, executive director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, said meth lab incidents have dropped 70 percent since the state enacted a law requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine.
"If we did this nationwide, this is a problem that would go away overnight," said Fisher, who spoke to the group by phone Wednesday. "This isn't just a public-safety issue; this is a public-health issue."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.