Dust Off deaths?

My mother got a chain letter today about a supposed death related to the product Dust Off…basically its just a compressed air cleaning system for dusting off PC’s and the like. She normally sends these things to me because her english is poor…and she worries a lot. Usually I simply debunk them or google to see if someone else has. In this case though I seem to be getting conflicting stories…and some that seem to say that this event actually happened. So, figured I’d come here to see if anyone has the definitive word on this. Here is the letter for anyone interested:


It apparently is true. Even Snopes concurs. Link.

It’s not simply compressed room air. The can I have here says it’s 100% 1,1-Difluoroethane, also known as Freon 152.

The label also directs to keep away from children and teens. (bolding mine)

Its primary hazard to humans appears to be that it’s not oxygen - it’s described as an asphyxiant. Breathe enough of this, and you’ll become hypoxic and get a bit of a “rush” from not getting enough oxygen, so it’s definitely something kids will try to huff.

Yes, I saw the Snopes link as well (its usually the first place I look). Its hard for me to believe that one of these chain letters is actually true…I guess I just have a hard time overcoming my prejudice against them and my knee jerk skepticism for anything that looks like an urban legend. In this case though I’ll have to tell my mom that indeed this looks like its true and assure her that my own cans of Dust Off are safely out of reach of the children.


Quite a lengthy text to make the point that the cans contain a propellant gas that shouldn’t be inhaled. I guess anybody who uses this product the way it was designed for doesn’t need to be worried.

True, but it is something that people who have this stuff in their homes should be aware of. Otherwise, they may be thinking that it’s safe to leave it sitting around, when it’s really not all that safe in the wrong hands.

Search Google for “huffing” and “inhalant abuse”. This is old hat. I remember warnings in school anti-drug classes in the 1970s. And this makes no sense:

"A boy who lives down the street from us showed Kyle how to do this about a month before. Kyle showed his best friend. Told him it was cool and it couldn’t hurt you. Its just compressed air. It can’t hurt you. His best friend said no.

“Kyle was wrong.”

WHY would any kid just think it was air? Does just air get you high? Obviously, there must be something else besides air in Dust Off that gives you a buzz.

There are plenty of things in the average household that could cause problems if inhaled or consumed in an attempt to get high. To panic over dust-off is a little silly. You can get high from sniffing gasoline; why not send a chain email warning about that?

Although the basic story in this letter may be true, it serves no purpose to unnecessarily panic people. Educate your kids on the dangers of ingesting weird things in an attempt to get high. Trying to keep them away from all of these substances is fruitless and stupid.

Yes, there was an episode of the Today Show or 20/20 or some such news magazine that highlighted the “growing problem” of kids sniffing Dust Off spray.

Which means that some mook out in Middle America died doing it and now we have to put another “shit you shouldn’t do” label on everything.

My understanding is that you get high from sniffing airplane glue or gasoline because the hydrocarbon fumes give you a chemical buzz. The Dust Off cans give you a buzz by making you feel all dizzy and lightheaded because the inert freon or whatever displaces all the oxygen you inhale (like gotpasswords said).

Oh and whatever you do…don’t turn the can upside down and spray an unsuspecting coworker with the freezing liquid freon…because it’s really freakin funny! :smiley:

This topic hits a little close to home.

A few years ago, I had a friend who was also my roommate, and we worked at the same company. He was an adult but that didn’t stop him when another friend introduced him to the fact that you could get a buzz from inhaling the contents of a Dust-Off can. I was there at the time, declined to try this, and told my friend he was an idiot for doing it. Still, I figured it was a one-time thing and didn’t really think much about it afterwards.

A few weeks later, my friend was found by someone, passed out and drooling. He said he had no idea what had happened. He told everyone, including his family that he visited a doctor who suspected it might be a seizure. However, it wasn’t an isolated incident. I later found him at his desk at work passed out and drooling. Being that our company worked with computers, there was a lot of Dust-Off around, but I didn’t make the connection. It just didn’t occur to me that he would be stupid enough to continue doing it. However, when I found him in the warehouse passed out, with a can of it on the shelf next to him, I started wondering. I went to his desk and there were two empty cans inside. I went to my boss with what I had discovered. We discussed it and both of us thought it must just be coincidence. This was a very intelligent guy who had a great job and great family life. He told us that the doctors were running tests to find out what was wrong with him and seemed genuinly concerned. Surely, he couldn’t be doing this to himself?

A couple of days later, they found him passed out at his mom’s house. His sister called me totally distraught, saying how scary it was that he was having these “seizures”. I asked her what he was doing when he passed out and she replied “He was cleaning the computer”. I told her what I knew and while she didn’t want to believe me, it was hard to deny that every time anyone found him passed out, there was a can of that air around.

The next day, when he showed up for a dinner with his mom and sister, he was surprised to see his entire family sitting there waiting for him. They confronted him and he confessed to having a problem. From what I understand, he did stop after that. I can only assume because we no longer talk. He stopped being my friend after I talked to his family about the situation. And while that saddens me to no end, I still know that I did the right thing.

My point is, I have no doubts that had nobody intervened, he would be dead now. Somehow he wasn’t able to see what he was doing to himself. I know this post is rather long but I think it is important for people to realize that this is a more common problem than one might suspect, and not neccessarily from just a dumb kid.

I have no doubts, after my experience that the information in the OP most likely did occur.

I’m almost sure this is medically incorrect:


Freons are toxic to humans by several mechanisms. Inhaled fluorocarbons sensitized the myocardium to catecholamines, frequently resulting in lethal ventricular arrhythmias. Because they are gases heavier than air, fluorocarbons can displace atmospheric oxygen, thus resulting in asphyxiation. These compounds also have a central nervous system (CNS) anesthetic effect analogous to a structurally similar general anesthetic, halothane. Pressurized refrigerant or liquid fluorocarbons with a low boiling point have a cyrogenic effect on exposed tissues, causing frostbite, laryngeal or pulmonary edema, and gastrointestinal perforation. Certain fluorocarbons degrade at high temperatures into toxic products of chlorine, hydrofluoric acid, or phosgene gases. /Freons/

[Haddad, L.M., Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Co., 1990. 1281]PEER REVIEWED

“These compounds also have a central nervous system (CNS) anesthetic effect analogous to a structurally similar general anesthetic, halothane.”

That’s what gets you high, not the lack of oxygen.

WHY does this surprise anyone? Perhaps it is because I am interested in this general topic. (I have 2 websites documenting deaths from the common OTC cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Search “dextromethorphan” on Google, and notice http://www.dextromethorphan.ws is #1 on this search.)


“Yet overdose death data for Texas present a very different picture. From 1990 through 1993, an average of 15 deaths involving inhalants were reported each year. Persons who died of inhalants were male (94 percent) and Anglo (90 percent), and the average age was 26 years. The most common substance mentioned on the death certificates as the cause of death was freon, with an average of six deaths per year, and there is a pattern of abuse by air conditioning mechanics and technicians. The other common substances were toluene and trichloroethane. Trichloroethane can be contained in typewriter correction fluid, transparent tape, or spot remover. In addition, nitrous oxide was the cause of at least one death per year.”

In the early 1990s, just in Texas alone there was an average of 6 Freon overdose deaths per year. Folks, this sort of thing is common. You have been warned.

I believe everyone is missing the deeper implication of this message – which is that a glurgey, hysterical mass email with few medical cites or identifying details TURNS OUT TO BE TRUE!!! The sky is falling, I tells ya! :eek:

Wasn’t there an SDMB post, from the ancient, ancient days of the board, where somebody sprayed Dust-Off into his mouth, just to see what it felt like? He didn’t get high but got severe frostbite (and everybody called him a freakin’ idiot – this guy was notable for doing stupid shit like that, as I recall.)

About as common as getting killed by a mountain lion…or lightning.

But nobody would would send out an alarming e-mail chain letter warning of the horrible dangers of mountain lions or lightning asking “everyone who receives this email to forward it to everyone in their address book, even Law Enforcement Officers” just because one person was killed by a mountain lion or struck by lightning. Everyone presumes these are dangerous. Why would anyone presume that huffing DUST OFF was safe? I’d have thought even if someone wasn’t aware this was dangerous, that act on the assumption it was. This chain e-mail suggests this isn’t widely assumed.

Gee its dangerous to be very stupid. While the potential death is true, how many other spray cans have the same risk?

Next scenario:
Teen: "Gee if I put a bag over my head, I get lightheaded. Kool. "
Parent finding dopey teen who had waited a little too long to open bag
“On no my son is dead, we must get all plastic bags out of homes and stores”

Think of the Children :smack:
BTW can we use TotC for these idiotic emails.

Well (if this was directed at me) my point in making this OP was only to see if it was true…not really to debate the probability of deaths due to Dust Off, or percentage of the total population at risk. I agree with those who say that the chance of death by Dust Off is vanishingly small…people are just really bad at risk management and risk assessment.

Just to clean this up, I was simply surprised that one of these dire email chain letters was actually true (i.e. that really was the father, his son really did die from Dust Off, etc) and simply wanted some confirmation because I couldn’t believe my own eyes.


Mine wasn’t aimed at you.
More the senders of the Email and the Father if he really suggested the TotC piece at the end.

Check out the link to my website above, and also follow the link at that site to http://www.coricidin.org. Read some of the news reports from the commercial media I have copies of on my sites. Quite often basically you get parents saying “Gee, but it is just an OTC medicine. Who would have thought it could be dangerous?” My reaction is who would think drinking multiple bottles of OTC cough medicine, or popping a huge fistful of Coricidin pills at once would be safe? A huge fistful of aspirin or Tylenol is also quite dangerous. Apparently, a lot of people have the idea in their heads “if something is legally available, it must be safe even if you use it in ways the package says specifically not to do.”

And the really bizarre thing is I’ve read many news reports where Internet web sites are blamed for children abusing DXM. Never mind the fact that it is trivially easy to find out the dangers of dextromethorphan and Coricidin using search engines. Then again, I am talking about the US. Personal responsibility is out of vogue. Somebody else must be responsible if someone does something stupid and kills themselves.

Think of the Children!