Freon: Coolant or inhalant? - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Freon: Coolant or inhalant?

Did you know that while you're relaxing at home in the air conditioning, you could be feeding your teenager's deadly addiction? Some kids are now huffing chemicals from air conditioning units to get high.

There's nothing cool about it -- this addiction that chips away at brain cells has even been captured in homemade videos posted on YouTube. Teens who are out of control, caught on camera chasing a short-lived high by inhaling chemicals used to cool your home.

Wayne Frith with Substance Abuse Free Environment Inc. (S.A.F.E.) works hard to keep this from becoming a disturbing trend.

"Essentially, it gives you the high of being intensely drunk on alcohol," explains Frith.  "Except it delivers that high in a matter of less than two seconds."

"You could die on the first try," adds mother Mona Casey. 

Casey knows about the life-threatening danger of inhalants. Her 15-year old son Charles was addicted to freon. He picked up the habit from a friend at school in 2006.

"The effects of refrigerant had already dissipated, so there was no clue or any indication to us that he was up to no good that day," Casey recalls. Two weeks after her son learned to huff, he was dead. His lifeless body was found sprawled out in a neighbor's yard.

Some teens are taking huffing to terrifying extremes in order to feed their addiction that begins minutes after the first huff. Some will pass out with a bag over their head. They can die from heart failure, brain damage or suffocation.

"We had no idea that such danger was so easily accessible," says Casey.

Unaware of huffing before her sons death, Casey created to educate people on the dangers lurking around your home. She changed international mechanical and residential code so that beginning this year, AC units are now installed with extra security.

Some air conditioning technicians now install special AC locks on older models. Service companies are receiving more and more calls for the small, shiny hardware that fits around the valve where freon can be released from the AC unit.

Chase Tunnell, who runs Dominion Service Company in Virginia, began securing AC units after hearing Mona Casey's painful story. He knows that those small silver caps can save lives.

"We had an area school system that actually had an incident of a student huffing refrigerant out of one of the systems there," says Tunnell.

He's also getting calls from concerned parents who are suspicious of their child's behavior. 

"One in particular has actually seen their son hanging around their outdoor unit with plastic bags," he continues. 

The locks can only be removed by licensed technicians with a key that's unavailable to the public. Casey advises all parents to secure their AC units as soon as possible.

"I'm very, very happy that the people there in Virginia are taking this very seriously," says Casey. "If your child dies on the first use, which many of them have, it will be too late then."

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