The Dangers of Dust Off
Date Added: June 30, 2005
It is the rare occasion that I find a chain letter circulating that is totally true. Sadly, this heartbreaking tale of personal loss is real and accurate.
A MUST read if you are a parent or work with children
First IM going to tell you a little about me and my family. My name is Jeff I am a Police Officer for a city which is known nationwide for its crime rate. We have a lot of gangs and drugs. At one point we were # 2 in the nation in homicides per capita. I also have a police K-9 named Thor. He was certified in drugs and general duty. He retired at 3 years old because he was shot in the line of duty. He lives with us now and I still train with him because he likes it. I always liked the fact that there was no way to bring drugs into my house. Thor wouldn't allow it. He would tell on you. The reason I say this is so you understand that I know about drugs. I have taught in schools about drugs. My wife asks all our kids at least once a week if they used any drugs. Makes them promise they wont.
I like building computers occasionally and started building a new one in February 2005. I also was working on some of my older computers. They were full of dust so on one of my trips to the computer store I bought a 3 pack of DUST OFF. Dust Off is a can of compressed air to blow dust off a computer. A few weeks later when I went to use them they were all used. I talked to my kids and my 2 sons both said they had used them on their computer and messing around with them. I yelled at them for wasting the 10 dollars I paid for them. On February 28 I went back to the computer store. They didn't have the 3 pack which I had bought on sale so I bought a single jumbo can of Dust Off. I went home and set it down beside my computer.
On March 1st I left for work at 10 PM. At 11 PM my wife went down and kissed Kyle goodnight. At 530 am 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.
I am a police officer and I had never heard of this. My wife is a nurse and she had never heard of this. We later found out from the coroner, after the autopsy, that only the propellant from the can of Dust off was in his system. No other drugs. Kyle had died between midnight and 1 Am.
I found out that using Dust Off is being done mostly by kids ages 9 through 15. They even have a name for it. It's called dusting. A take off from the Dust Off name. It gives them a slight high for about 10 seconds. It makes them dizzy. A boy who lives down the street from us showed Kyle how to do this about a month before. Kyle showed his best friend. Told him it was cool and it couldn't hurt you. Its just compressed air. It cant hurt you. His best friend said no.
Kyle was wrong. It's not just compresses air. It also contains a propellant I think its R2. Its a refrigerant like what is used in your refrigerator. It is a heavy gas. Heavier than air. When you inhale it, it fills your lungs and keeps the good air, with oxygen, out. That's why you feel dizzy, buzzed. It decreases the oxygen to your brain, to your heart. Kyle was right. It cant hurt you. IT KILLS YOU. The horrible part about this is there is no warning. There is no level that kills you. It's not cumulative or an overdose; it can just go randomly, terribly wrong. Roll the dice and if your number comes up you die. ITS NOT AN OVERDOSE. Its Russian roulette. You don't die later. Or not feel good and say I've had too much. You usually die as your breathing it in. If not you die within 2 seconds of finishing "the hit." That's why the straw was still in Kyle's mouth when he died. Why his eye's were still open.
The experts want to call this huffing. The kids don't believe its huffing. As adults we tend to lump many things together. But it doesn't fit here. And that's why its more accepted. There is no chemical reaction. no strong odour. It doesn't follow the huffing signals. Kyle complained a few days before he died of his tongue hurting. It probably did. The propellant causes frostbite. If I had only known.
Its easy to say hay, its my life and I'll do what I want. But it isn't. Others are always effected. This has forever changed our family's life. I have a hole in my heart and soul that can never be fixed. The pain is so immense I cant describe it. There's nowhere to run from it. I cry all the time and I don't ever cry. I do what I'm supposed to do but I don't really care. My kids are messed up. One won't talk about it. The other will only sleep in our room at night. And my wife, I cant even describe how bad she is taking this. I thought we were safe because of Thor. I thought we were safe because we knew about drugs and talked to our kids about them.
After Kyle died another story came out. A Probation Officer went to the school system next to ours to speak with a student. While there he found a student using Dust Off in the bathroom. This student told him about another student who also had some in his locker. This is a rather affluent school system. They will tell you they don't have a drug problem there. They don't even have a dare or plus program there. So rather than tell everyone about this "new" way of getting high they found, they hid it. The probation officer told the media after Kyle's death and they, the school, then admitted to it. I know that if they would have told the media and I had heard, it wouldn't have been in my house.
We need to get this out of our homes and school computer labs.
Using Dust Off isn't new and some "professionals" do know about. It just isn't talked about much, except by the kids. They know about it.
April 2nd was 1 month since Kyle died. April 5th 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.
Jeff Williams is a police office in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. On March 2, 2005, Kyle Williams, age 14, was found dead in his bed by his mother, Kathy. Kyle died from asphyxiation resulting from inhaling Dust Off, a popular brand of compressed air used in cleaning electronic components.
The message above did not start out as an e-mail chain letter. Rather, Jeff Williams posted the text above on two smoking cessation web sites days after Kyle's death as a form of therapy for himself, as he told BreakTheChain.org:
"This did not start out as a e-mail. I posted a shorter letter like this one on a site I used to quit smoking a few years earlier. As I'm sure you can understand this was a time when I wanted to start smoking again. I went to this site for help. A teacher asked if she could read it to her class and I stated I would prefer to write another one. I wanted them to know Kyle, our family, and to be able to relate to what happened better. After I sent her the letter I also posted it to Quitnet.com and Silentgrief.com. From there it was copied and sent. It grew from there. I did not make this to send as a chain e-mail. I am glad it has become one though because I hope it will help someone else."
“Huffing” or “dusting” are common names for inhalation abuse, a form of drug usage. Inhalation is popular among teens because it uses normal household products that arouse little suspicion. The easy availability of these products lead many kids to assume the practice is safe. According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, as many as one in five Eighth graders have experimented with inhalants.
The “high” produced by inhalation is actually oxygen deprivation. Chemicals in the products inhaled fill the lungs and prevent oxygenated air from entering, producing a brief period of light-headedness as the brain is robbed of oxygenated blood. Unconsciousness, brain damage and death from asphyxiation can result.
Dust Off is just one brand of compressed air cleaner. Blast Away, Kensington Duster II and Airduster are a few others. Most brands contain warnings about misuse on the package and Falcon Safety Products, maker of Dust Off, has a special web site, Dusters 101, specifically designed to educate consumers on the proper use of their products and the dangers of abuse. However, Williams believes that the company did so only after - and in response to - Kyle's death.
In many cases of inhalant abuse, it is not the products themselves, but rather the propellants used in their packaging that pose the hazard. Other seemingly harmless household items used for huffing include hairspray, aerosol whipped cream, correction fluid (White-Out, Liquid Paper), felt-tipped markers, butane and even cooking spray. The NIPC urges all parents to discuss the very real dangers of inhalant use with their children:
"It is never too early to teach your children about the dangers of inhalants. Don't just say "not my kid." Inhalant use starts as early as elementary school and is considered a gateway to further substance abuse. Parents often remain ignorant of inhalant use or do not educate their children until it is too late. Inhalants are not drugs. They are poisons and toxins and should be discussed as such."
Unfortunately, an e-mail chain letter is a poor source for reliable information. Even though Mr. Williams does not object to his words being forwarded in this fashion, his personal entreaty has already suffered from the common shortfalls of using e-mail to distribute information.
One version replaces Mr. Willams’ name with that of Tracey Lowey and places the events in Calgary – simply because Ms. Lowey forwarded the e-mail above and her e-mail program automatically attached her name to it. This is a common phenomenon that I've labeled False Attribution Syndrome.
Other things that can happen as it circulates is the author's name can be lost entirely, Kyle's name can be replaced or dropped, the name of the product can be replaced or dropped, and well-meaning forwarders can attach unrelated and less-reliable comments and opinions that will appear indistinguishable from the original.
There are many resources on the web that provide reliable and verifiable information about inhalant abuse. A few are listed in the reference section below.
BreakTheChain.org generally recommends against relying upon or distributing health advice via e-mail chain letter. The medium is simply unreliable and too many opportunities for misinformation exist. Hundreds of times I have watched as true chain letters mutate until they begin to misinform. Let's do our parts to keep this one true to the facts and, thus, a proper tribute to Kyle and an effective warning to others. Break this chain.
References: Snopes.com, Hoax-Slayer.com, National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, The Office of National Drug Control Policy