CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The device cooling your home could be getting your kids high. Officials say people are huffing Freon from air conditioning units to get a buzz, but the habit could cost homeowners hundreds and also cost a life.
"When you inhale the gas, in creates an extreme state of intoxication," said Wayne Frith, a member of SAFE or Substance Abuse Free Environment. "It's like being very, very drunk in a matter of a couple of seconds."
The Freon is easily accessible, and highly dangerous.
"It actually dissolves the tissue in the brain," said Frith.
"We had an area school system who saw students near the unit and didn't know why and those systems did end up to be low on Freon," explained Chase Tunnell with the Dominion Services Company who provides the locking mechanism for free.
Now local companies are helping officials fight back — providing what amounts to a child safety lock on hundreds of units for free.
"We put the caps on and haven't heard back from them since," said Tunnell.
"It prevents kids from actually coming out and huffing the refrigerant. Which saves their lives and saves homeowners money," said Kevin Kirsh, an employee with Midlothian Mechanical who is providing the locking mechanism for free.
Kirsh says replacing the Freon could cost you hundreds. The lock, which can save lives and money, can be acquired for free. "It's just a little twist off cap like your car tire that anybody can take off of there and what we're installing is a real simple piece," said Tunnell. "It's gotta simple key."
We're told abusers often use a bag or balloon to collect the gas. If you see those items near your unit, that's reason to be concerned.
For a list of companies that can provide the child safety lock on your unit for free click here.