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21-year-old dies from inhaling air duster can

One Mid-Missouri woman says her 21-year-old son is dead after inhaling a compressed air duster can.

Jerrad “J.B.” Bassett died in a hospital just north of St. Louis this past June.

His mother, who lives in Howard County, says the autopsy report came back and the cause of death was a chemical found in air duster cans. She says her son died within hours of being taken to the emergency room.

The effects of “huffing” can be severe. The Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition says inhaled chemicals are absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and travel to the brain and other organs. It says effects on the body happen in just minutes. Those can include dizziness, headaches, pain, spasms, loss of control, hallucinations and more.

Bassett’s mother, Christina Doyle, lived about three hours away from her 21-year-old son and says she doesn’t think anyone near Bassett knew how sick he was.

Christina Doyle, Jerrad “J.B.” Bassett’s mother: “He had good manners, he was an accomplished song-writer, he loved life, he opened the door for me, he was a good kid. Jerrad didn’t deserve to die this way.”

Because compressing air by itself would not hold enough pressure, most air duster cans contain one of two chemicals: difluoroethane or tetrafluoroethane, according to Inhalant Abuse Prevention.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health says an estimated 9 percent, or 22.5 million people, in the U.S. have used an inhalant at least once. And in 2011, more than 67 percent of first-time inhalers were younger than 18.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department says many common household or office items can be inhalants. Some are compressed air duster cans, spray paint cans, paint thinners, strong glues and propane.

Doyle says her son was inhaling about six cans a day for six to seven days before a friend took him to the emergency room.

Doyle: “Jerrad’s back was hurting. He was saying, ‘I feel like I’m dying, I need some water.’ He was vomiting, he had been vomiting for two days.”

Bassett was only in the hospital for about five hours before he died.

The Council on Drug Abuse says inhalers also risk SSDS, or Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, which is heart failure caused by inhaling. It also says inhalants are much easier to get hooked on because of their availability and low cost.

Doyle: “I was shocked to see how easy someone can obtain a can or a case of air dust at any store, Dollar General or Walmart.”

Inhalant Abuse Prevention says there are a few warning signs of inhalant abuse. Those include paint or chemical stains on the face or fingers, runny or red nose and eyes, loss of appetite or nausea and hidden chemical-soaked rags or clothes.

Doyle says she would like to see more regulations for inhalants. Some states require buyers to be at least 18 years old. But the Boone County Sheriff’s Department says there are currently zero regulations in the state of Missouri for inhalants.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says if you suspect someone has an inhalant abuse problem, contact a local drug rehabilitation center or the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition.

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