CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A man, who was found dead in a car at a Chesterfield Walmart back in June, died due to inhaling compressed air, the Medical Examiner said. The cause of his death was difluorethane toxicity, which is an odorless gas.
Chesterfield Police say some of the cans of compressed air that were found outside of the man's car were purchased at the Walmart, located at 900 Walmart Way in Midlothian. His body was found on June 12. Police have not released his name.
"If you huff or sniff a product, it can cause you to go unconscious, and then you can go into cardiac arrest and actually die from it," explained Regina Whitsett with Chesterfield's SAFE program.
Huffing can cause brain, kidney and liver damage.
"It's a cheap high, and what some people get when they can't get other drugs, and what some young people start out using to experiment," she explained.
In small letters, you'll find the warnings on cans of cleaner. Most tell you not to breathe in the fumes, because too much exposure could have serious or deadly consequences. It is especially important to keep products away from children.
"In 2005, we saw the inhalant numbers were high among 8th graders," said Whitsett.
Community youth surveys in the early 2000s asked if young people had ever sniffed glue, breathed the contents of an aerosol spray can or inhaled other gases or sprays. The county found the answers to the question were an overwhelming 'yes.'
At one point in Chesterfield, the number of students who said they had inhaled chemicals was higher than the national average.
That sparked an educational curriculum focused on the dangers of huffing, which Whitsett says led to a decline in the students inhaling dangerous chemicals in Chesterfield. She believes it's a conversation that needs to continue, in order to educate and help others
"I hope this young person's passing was not in vain, and we're talking about this topic," explained Whitsett.
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