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home : local news : local news July 8, 2020

1/10/2007 2:22:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
New 'huffing' fad spreading in area


Some people complain about paying as much as $5 for a can of air; for others, unfortunately, it's a cheap high. The fad hasn't hit Crawford County yet, but it's becoming evident elsewhere in the area.

"As I understand it, it's only like a 30-second high," said Lawrence County Sheriff Russell Adams. "The sad part is, this 30-second high might end up in a fatality."

Canned air was made to be used as a household dust remover, especially useful for computer equipment such as keyboards. But when "huffed" by deeply inhaling the contents, it provides a short but substantial euphoric sensation.

Crawford County Sheriff Todd Liston does not believe it is currently a problem here, but is aware of the dangers of huffing.

"The gas that is inside those containers can be deadly if it goes down the wrong pipe," Liston said. "Paint fumes, if inhaled, will destroy brain cells."

Local officials say abuse of the product is sweeping through Lawrence County, especially in the junior and senior high-school classes. Authorities believe the current fad might have originated from McKendree College in Lebanon, about two hours from Lawrenceville.

Dean Kelly, chairman of the Lawrence County Neighborhood Watch organization, said the names of many huffers are known. Local businesses selling the product in Lawrence County and others have been contacted about the fad.

Though it wasn't canned air, Lawrence County still remembers the last fatal tragedy involving huffing, Kelly said. In the mid-1990's, a Red Hill High School student was killed in a vehicle accident believed to involve huffing butane.

"We lost one kid in this county over (huffing)," Kelly said. "I'd hate to see another."

Kelly said with the businesses and authorities aware of the problem, he hoped parents weren't the last to find out.

Adams agreed. "Hopefully, with the paper bringing this out, the parents will keep their eyes open," Adams said.

Recently, Adams visited Red Hill High School and spoke to students about the consequences of huffing.

Canned air, also called duster, consists of liquefied difluoroethane, trifluoroethane, or tetrafluoroethane in a spray can. Contrary to popular belief, the cans do not contain compressed air, as the inert gases are much easier to compress into liquid.

Normally, the liquid in the can immediately changes into gas when it leaves the nozzle. Gases compressed into liquids absorb energy upon vaporization, which is why under normal use, the can becomes quite cold to the touch. Turning the can upside-down when spraying does not allow for the liquid to immediately vaporize, and therefore turns the can into a freeze spray.

As computers become more common in the household and workplace, so does canned air.

Before authorities were made aware of the fad, having canned air in the back seat of a car would not have been a concern, but now if there is any reason to suspect abuse, Adams said the authorities might call a teenage driver's parents.

If warranted in the future, that policy might be changed to become more strict.

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