Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Scottish plan to cut solvent deaths
Solvent abuse has claimed many lives in Scotland
A campaign has been launched in Scotland to reduce the number of young people killed by solvent abuse.
The inhalation of substances such as glue and butane has claimed 232 lives in Scotland since 1971.
The initiative is being undertaken jointly with the Co-op and the Health Education Authority.
The statistics, compiled by St George's Hospital Medical School in London, show that the number of deaths caused by solvent abuse rose between 1995 and 1996 from 69 to 75. Most victims were aged between 14 and 18.
The array of substances inhaled included air fresheners, hair spray and bicycle tyre repair glue.
Jennifer Taylor, research manager at St George's, said many of the deaths were unnecessary.
"Like Russian roulette, some die and some don't," she said.
"Because someone has used them once or twice, they should never assume that they are free from risk. All these deaths are preventable."
Surveys show that up to 9% of all school children have inhaled solvents, but the majority only try them once or twice.
Since they slow down the heart rate and breathing, they can cause suffocation and heart failure.
If they are inhaled in a plastic bag, suffocation is a higher risk. Many also contain dangerous chemicals.
The long-term effects include kidney and liver damage. Lighter fuel is one of the most dangerous solvents because it cools the throat tissues and causes them to swell, creating breathing difficulties.