Dusting: A New Killer Teen Trend
Wednesday - August 31, 2005
Have you heard of “dusting?” It’s a danger that apparently has not hit Hawaii yet. But I am telling you about it now because it has killed kids on the Mainland and it’s something parents need to know.
Dusting is a form of huffing, or inhalant abuse. Unfortunately it appears to be growing in popularity as the newest cheap high. And this deadly new thrill may be sitting on your desk at home right now. The term dusting comes from the most common product used, Dust Off, which is used to clean computers.
I became aware of it when a friend sent me an e-mail. It’s been circulating on the Internet, which of course immediately set off red flags. But I checked it out and found that this is not an urban legend.
The e-mail is from a grieving father, a police officer named Jeff who lost his son to this vicious new trend.
“On March 1 I left for work at 10 p.m. At 11 p.m. my wife went down and kissed Kyle goodnight. At 5:30 a.m. the next morning Kathy went downstairs to wake Kyle up for school, before she left for work. He was sitting up in bed with his legs crossed and his head leaning over. She called to him a few times to get up. He didn’t move. He would sometimes tease her like this and pretend he fell back asleep. He was never easy to get up. She went in and shook his arm. He fell over. He was pale white and had the straw from the Dust Off can coming out of his mouth. He had the new can of Dust Off in his hands. Kyle was dead.”
This man, a police officer, and his wife, who is a nurse, had never heard of this. They found out from the coroner after the autopsy.
As I searched for other stories I found scattered reports from across the country. In California, according to an MSNBC report, a teenager named Ben Goudberg tried it, and regretted it.
“I couldn’t move for three to four minutes, and I was staring at a door thinking I wanted to get up and go and touch it and I couldn’t do it,” he told the reporter. “It’s one of the scariest feelings in the world.”
Dusting is huffing, but the kids don’t believe it’s as bad. The kids who try it may think it’s safe because they think what’s in the can is nothing but compressed air. It isn’t. It contains a propellant that is heavier than air, which means when it’s inhaled it forces oxygen out and sits on the bottom of the lungs. It’s a refrigerant - it freezes the lungs and causes a temporary paralysis. It damages the brains, lungs, heart, kidneys and liver.
The company that makes Dust Off is aware of the danger and has devoted a page on its web-site to it. In part, the message from Falcon Safety Products says:
“As a leading manufacturer of one of the world’s most versatile aerosol products, Falcon recognizes that among the issues surrounding aerosol product distribution and usage is that of inhalant abuse or ‘huffing.’ It is imperative that consumers of aerosol products, parents and children all understand the seriousness of this practice.”
The grieving father, Jeff, wants all parents to know about this danger. It blindsided him and his wife, and he doesn’t want it to happen to others.
“Using Dust Off isn’t new and some ‘professionals’ do know about it,” he writes. “It just isn’t talked about much, except by the kids. They know about it.
“April 2 was one month since Kyle died. April 5 would have been his 15th birthday. And every weekday I catch myself sitting on the living room couch at 2:30 in the afternoon and waiting to see him get off the bus. I know Kyle is in Heaven, but I cant help but wonder if I died and went to Hell.”
Our state Department of Health is aware of this trend. The head of the Alcohol and Drub Abuse Division, Keith Yamamoto, believes it hasn’t caused a tragedy here - yet.
“We are hopeful,” he wrote to me, “that this is one trend that will not be coming our way.”
But just in case, let’s keep our eyes peeled and the aerosol can away from kids.
And let’s talk to our children about the very real dangers of dusting.
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