3 8th-graders treated after abusing inhalant

October 20, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

In a sign of the growing problem of inhalant abuse in Howard County, three eighth-grade boys at Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville were taken to an area hospital yesterday after sniffing nail polish remover.

Another eighth-grader apparently had brought the nail polish remover to school in a plastic container inside a plastic bag, said Patti Caplan, a school spokeswoman. The three boys were overcome while sniffing it shortly after 1 p.m., she said.

One of the three was taken by ambulance to Howard County General Hospital; the other two were taken there by their parents, said Howard County police spokesman Sgt. Steven Keller.

A hospital spokesman refused to divulge their conditions because they are minors, but Sergeant Keller said the three weren't seriously injured.

Ms. Caplan and Sergeant Keller said they did not know where in the school the students sniffed the nail polish remover or what they were supposed to have been doing at the time.

Police will investigate the incident, and some or all of the students involved could face criminal charges, Sergeant Keller said. It is illegal in Maryland to inhale a noxious substance, he said.

Howard County school officials, increasingly concerned by signs increasing abuse of inhalants by students, mailed pamphlets to the parents of elementary, middle and high school students in April warning them of the dangers of sniffing common household products.

Sniffing the fumes of nail polish remover, for instance, can cause a person to pass out, said Dr. Bruce Anderson, assistant director of the Maryland Poison Control Center at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Dr. Anderson said the acetone in the remover, although dangerous, tends to have physical consequences that are not as severe as those of other substances frequently inhaled by youths. Those include paint, paint thinner and gasoline, which can cause permanent neurological damage.

Howard County does not have data on the frequency of inhalant abuse locally, but it is a growing problem, said Jean Blair, an addiction counselor for adolescents at the county Health Department's Addiction Services Center.

"I am seeing more and more of it in middle school and even elementary school students because it is the easiest for them to get ahold of," Ms. Blair said.

A University of Michigan study released this year estimated that nationally about 7 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 have abused inhalants, including 1.4 million eighth-graders.

The inhalants abused most frequently in Howard County, Ms. Blair said, appear to be nitrous oxide, butane, nail polish remover, typewriter correction fluid and the propellant used in aerosol cans.

But she said that more than 600 household products have been identified as being used by youths as inhalants.

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