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"Huffing" A Serious Problem for South Dakota Youth

April 4, 2007


Webster, SD - U.S. Department of Health data shows the percentage of young people using inhalants in South Dakota is rising, and that has health officials worried and parents concerned. Lola Pollard is a Physician Assistant in Webster and vice president of the South Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants. She says it's a serious problem because most kids don't know they can die from a single session of inhalant use. And because they're found in household products, she says, they may be the first substances young people experiment with.

"Eighth graders have the highest use, about 17 percent of 8th graders, and that kind of drops off. And it tends to be in the younger kids 6th grade through like sophomore year in high school because it is so easily accessible."

Pollard notes young people underestimate the dangers of huffing, and that long-term effects can include chronic nose bleeds, loss of smell and hearing. The three groups of inhalants include volatile solvents, aerosol gases and nitrates.

"The volatile solvents would be like correction fluid. Some aerosols are simple things like hair spray, spray paints, fabric protectant sprays, the aerosol computer cleaning products. The gases are things like the aerosols used in whipped cream. And then there's nitrates, and nitrates are things like your video head cleaners."

She urges parents to talk with their kids, let them know how dangerous sniffing is, and get help if it looks like your kid may be using inhalants.

"You're looking for chemically soaked rags in the trash or papers. Sometimes they'll huff them out of paper bags to increase the amount that they get or you might see paint or other stains on their clothing, their hands or their face."

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD