20% of 14-year-olds admit to inhaling industrial chemicals

Netanya teen falls to death from school roof after getting high on AC gas.

March 8, 2010 02:16
2 minute read.
20% of 14-year-olds admit to inhaling industrial chemicals

air conditioner 88. (photo credit: )


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Police are powerless to stop youths from inhaling industrial chemicals, and parents must be on the lookout for the signs of such “legal drug abuse,” the Anti-Drugs Authority’s spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

A day earlier, a 16-year-old boy plunged to his death from a school rooftop in Netanya after he allegedly inhaled gas from an air conditioner.

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On Saturday night, Sisai Ashato was found dead; police say he and a friend inhaled gas from an air conditioner on the roof of their school.

Ashato’s friend, also 16, has been arrested on suspicion of pushing Ashato off the roof, allegedly while under the influence of the gas.

A police spokesman said on Sunday there was “no law against inhaling the gas, just like there is no law preventing a person from drinking gallons of bleach. This is not a prohibited substance, and not a classic drug that police deal with.”

Shamai Golan, spokesman for the Anti-Drugs Authority, agreed.

“This is not a matter for police or social workers. It’s up to the parents to be aware of what their children are doing. If the gas is inhaled once or twice, this won’t be noticeable. But repeated use will have tell-tale signs,” he said.

These warning signs include “wounds around the lips caused by chemicals, apathetic moods, mysterious behavior, new friends, and a lack of interest in studies. The gas has also been linked to violence,” Golan said.

Air conditioner gas is highly accessible, he warned. “You simply disconnect the pipe and inhale. It causes a very short high, lasting a minute to two minutes, which resembles intoxication.

“Coordination is lost, and if you’re standing on a roof, you can fall off,” he said.

Every year, two or three youngsters either die or are seriously injured by accidents that follow gas inhalation, Golan said.

“In 2009, 80,000 youths aged 12 to 18 admitted to sniffing Tipp-Ex [correction fluid], glue, or inhaling gas from an air conditioner. We don’t differentiate between these uses. That’s 14 percent of all 12-to-18-year-olds in the country,” Golan continued. “The most vulnerable age is 14. Twenty percent of 14-year-olds admit to using these substances,” he said.

“Most deaths result from first-time use, because new users are not familiar with the effects,” he said.

“It’s a terrible figure, but it does not represent an increase. In 2005, 15% of the same age group said they used those substances,” he said.

Long-term use damages the airways and has physiological consequences, Golan noted.

Meanwhile, police in Netanya say the teen suspected of pushing Ashato to his death has confessed and reenacted the incident for police.

The suspect’s lawyers said the reenactment was illegally obtained since he was not allowed to consult with a lawyer first.

Ashato’s body was sent to the L. Greenberg Medical Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for an autopsy, which will be attended by two pathologists sent on behalf of lawyers for the suspect.

The suspect’s custody has been extended until Thursday. Three additional suspects, believed to have been at the scene, have been under house arrest since Saturday, and were taken into custody after being questioned on Sunday. They will appear at a juvenile court on Monday for a remand hearing.

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