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Huffing Freon A Dangerous New Trend

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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More and more teens are huffing freon from air conditioning units like these.

More and more teens are huffing freon from air conditioning units like these.

WBZ-TV's Paula Ebben Paula Ebben
Award-winning journalist Paula Ebben co-anchors WBZ-TV News at 6PM...
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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s shocking and it’s fast becoming the latest trend in teen huffing.

Kids are now inhaling Freon, and sometimes, there’s fatal consequences.

Just search on YouTube and you’ll see unsettling video of what your teen could be doing.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

In one video, a teen boy breathes from a balloon and is so disoriented he stumbles, knocking things off a table. In another video, a teen huffs, then falls to the ground.

You can see dozens of videos of teens inhaling the coolant commonly found in air conditioning systems. Freon causes a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication.

“Even a single use can result in sudden death,” says Dr. Shan Yin of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Gail Henry knows that all too well, tearfully recounting what happened to her son Jacob.

The 18-year-old college student was found dead next to an air conditioning unit with a bag over his head. His mother says he had been huffing Freon.

“Huffing is a game of Russian roulette,” Henry says.

The latest American Association of Poison Control Center report says Freon huffing killed at least two teens in 2009. And more than two thousand were treated at hospitals.

Huffing Freon can cause serious medical problems. Your lungs can actually freeze and it can cause cardiac death. You can also lose consciousness and suffer brain damage.

“Parents should be very concerned if they find out their child is using this,” says Dr. Yin.

How are teens getting access to Freon? In one case, we found a padlocked gate surrounding an air conditioning company’s compressor. People were stealing Freon and the owners finally had to fence it off.

In one YouTube surveillance video, you see teens sneaking up to an A/C unit, crouching behind it. They look around and then take off.

One way to address this problem is “Freon locks,” which can be a life saver. Your A/C service person can install one on your compressor, which makes it impossible to let Freon out without a key.

Freon locks cost about $25. New air conditioners now on the market have an internal hose which makes it more difficult to access the Freon.

Prevention is the best way for parents to combat this problem. Make sure you talk to your kids and explain why Freon huffing is so dangerous.

Gail Henry is now warning teens about the dangers of Freon huffing.

“Don’t ever consider doing it because that five seconds of high you get when you do it isn’t worth dying over,” she says.

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