Public health experts warn that the fatal trend known by the names of 'chroming,' 'huffing' or inhalant abuse is on the rise among youngsters.
A parent's worst nightmare came true for Anne Ryan three months ago when she walked into her 16-year-old daughter Brooke's bedroom to find the teen dead, lying face down on the floor with a spray can of deodorant and a tea towel underneath her. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the teenager—who is said to have been a talented athlete and bright student—had apparently been sniffing aerosols, a dangerous trend that's also known by the names of "chroming," "huffing" or inhalant abuse. Public health experts warn that the fatal trend is on the rise among young children and teenagers.
enquires to NSW poisons information centre ⬆️ in children/young people ⬇️this case particularly tragic @IBerling— Michael Downes (@ToxTalks) May 9, 2022
Chroming, huffing, or sniffing: Deaths or poisoning rise from inhalant abuse https://t.co/8j4tZcJniV
"I wake up, I think of her, I go to sleep and think of her, and you wish, you wish [you could bring her back], but you just can't," Ryan said of her late daughter. "Every day is a nightmare." It was mid-afternoon on February 3 when Ryan found her daughter's stiff, lifeless body in her bedroom. The mother and daughter had been out driving all morning to give Brooke, who was on her L-plates, some practice. The teen was supposed to go to Mildura that night for a weekend away before starting year 11 the following week.
According to Ryan, Brooke was an "effervescent person" and a talented athlete who played basketball, netball, and soccer, and was scouted by GWS Giants. She aspired to be a lawyer, physiotherapist, or beautician, and intended to study Advanced English in her HSC. Like many other kids, Brooke had struggled with anxiety—especially during the pandemic—but she had a lot of support and was determined to overcome it. "She was a beautiful girl with a heart of gold, who's just so sorely missed, and would be absolutely devastated to know the negative impact she's had on so many people from her death," Ryan said.
Look @GregHuntMP & @TGAgovau. A "teen chroming epidemic". I've got a great idea. Let's make all aerosol deodorant prescription only. Those damn teens will try anything won't they! #vaping— The Craven One Eyed Fop (@tungodemungo) May 12, 2021
Queensland retailers urged to lock up aerosols amid chroming spikehttps://t.co/KbopiDjurP
Although the Coroner's report is yet to be handed down, the teen's heartbroken mother believes it was sudden sniffing death syndrome, a known potential side-effect of using inhalants. Brooke's body was found covered in bruises, suggesting she had a heart attack. Ryan, who had no idea her daughter was using inhalants, is now sharing her experience to alert other parents about the risks and the warning signs. These include frequent headaches or the use of headache pills, excessive deodorant or other aerosol use, the smell in their room, and white spots on tea towels or hand towels.
It was a strange feeling making this video, but we've lost too many people already.— Trikoot 🛴 (@trikoot) December 7, 2020
(Content Warning: Hints of autoerotic fatality and inhalant abuse) pic.twitter.com/CeMMigUOxo
Ryan is also calling for awareness campaigns about the risk of inhalants for both parents and young people through schools, and better labeling on aerosol cans to warn of the risks. According to Dr. Ingrid Berling—a clinical toxicologist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre—there has been an alarming rise in inhalant use among young people and children. "What's concerning in the data is that there's a young group of children that are exposed to recreational drugs," Berling said. "It's only a small percentage of all of the drugs and alcohol and other drugs that are used, but it's concerning that there are 12 and 13-year-olds that are known to be using hydrocarbons as a recreational drug."
Brooke leaves behind her mother, who works as an assistant principal at a local primary school, her father Deon who manages the sewage plant, and three older brothers.