Email from a grieving father outlines the danger of inhaling Dust-Off computer cleaner, after his son died as a result of “huffing” the product.
The case described in this email is real. On the 2nd March 2005, 14-year-old Kyle Williams of Painesville Township, Ohio died after inhaling Dust-Off. Thus, the warning in the message is valid and important. As discussed in the warning email, inhaling Dust-Off computer cleaner can be fatal. Some newer versions of the message change details such as the name of the police officer and the country in which Kyle’s death took place.
Subject: FW: : Dust Off – A deadly drugDust Off- A Serious Fatal Hazard
First IM going to tell you a little about me and my family. My name is Jeff. I am a Police Officer for a city which is known nationwide for its crime rate. We have a lot of gangs and drugs. At one point we were # 2 in the nation in homicides per capita. I also have a police K-9 named Thor . He was certified in drugs and general duty. He retired at 3 years old because he was shot in the line of duty. He lives with us now and I still train with him because he likes it. I always liked the fact that there was no way to bring drugs into my house. Thor wouldn’t allow it. He would tell on you. The reason I say this is so you understand that I know about drugs. I have taught in schools about drugs. My wife asks all our kids at least once a week if they used any drugs. Makes them promise they won’t.
I like building computers occasionally and started building a new one in February 2005. I also was working on some of my older computers. They were full of dust so on one of my trips to the computer store I bought a 3 pack of DUST OFF. Dust Off is a can of compressed air to blow dust off a computer. A few weeks later when I went to use them they were all used. I talked to my kids and my 2 sons both said they had used them on their computer and messing around with them. I yelled at them for wasting the 10 dollars I paid for them. On February 28 I went back to the computer store. They didn’t have the 3 pack which I had bought on sale so I bought a single jumbo can of Dust Off. I went home and set it down beside my computer.
On March 1st I left for work at 10 PM. At 11 PM my wife went down and kissed Kyle goodnight. At 530 AM the next morning Kathy went downstairs to wake Kyle up for school, before she left for work. He was sitting up in bed with his legs crossed and his head leaning over. She called to him a few times to get up. He didn’t move. He would sometimes tease her like this and pretend he fell back asleep. He was never easy to get up. She went in and shook his arm. He fell over. He was pale white and had the straw from the Dust Off can coming out of his mouth. He had the new can of Dust Off in his hands. Kyle was dead.
I am a police officer and I had never heard of this. My wife is a nurse and she had never heard of this. We later found out from the coroner, after the autopsy, that only the propellant from the can of Dust off was in his system. No other drugs. Kyle had died between midnight and 1 Am.
I found out that using Dust Off is being done mostly by kids ages 9 through 15. They even have a name for it. It’s called dusting. A take off from the Dust Off name. It gives them a slight high for about 10 seconds. It makes them dizzy. 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. It’s just compressed air. It can’t hurt you. His best friend said no.
Kyle was wrong. It’s not just compresses air. It also contains a propellant. I think its R2. It’s a refrigerant like what is used in your refrigerator. It is a heavy gas.-Heavier than air. When you inhale it, it fills your lungs and keeps the good air, with oxygen, out. That’s why you feel dizzy, buzzed. It decreases the oxygen to your brain, to your heart. Kyle was right. It can’t hurt you. IT KILLS YOU. The horrible part about this is there is no warning. There is no level that kills you. It’s not cumulative or an overdose; it can just go randomly, terribly wrong. Roll the dice and if your number comes up you die. IT’S NOT AN OVERDOSE. It’s Russian roulette. You don’t die later. Or not feel good and say I’ve had too much. You usually die as your breathing it in. If not you die within 2 seconds of finishing “the hit.” That’s why the straw was still in Kyle’s mouth when he died. Why his eyes were still open.
The experts want to call this huffing. The kids don’t believe its huffing. As adults we tend to lump many things together. But it doesn’t fit here. And that’s why it’s more accepted. There is no chemical reaction. no strong odor. It doesn’t follow the huffing signals. Kyle complained a few days before he died of his tongue hurting. It probably did. The propellant causes frostbite. If I had only known.
It’s easy to say hay, it’s my life and I’ll do what I want. But it isn’t. Others are always affected. This has forever changed our family’s life. I have a hole in my heart and soul that can never be fixed. The pain is so immense I can’t describe it. There’s nowhere to run from it. I cry all the time and I don’t ever cry. I do what I’m supposed to do but I don’t really care. My kids are messed up. One won’t talk about it. The other will only sleep in our room at night. And my wife, I can’t even describe how bad she is taking this. I thought we were safe because of Thor. I thought we were safe because we knew about drugs and talked to our kids about them.
After Kyle died another story came out. A Probation Officer went to the school system next to ours to speak with a student. While there he found a student using Dust Off in the bathroom. This student told him about another student who also had some in his locker. This is a rather affluent school system. They will tell you they don’t have a drug problem there. They don’t even have a dare or plus program there. So rather than tell everyone about this “new” way of getting high they found, they hid it. The probation officer told the media after Kyle’s death and they, the school, then admitted to it. I know that if they would have told the media and I had heard, it wouldn’t have been in my house.
We need to get this out of our homes and school computer labs.
Using Dust Off isn’t new and some “professionals” do know about. It just isn’t talked about much, except by the kids. They know about it.
April 2nd was 1 month since Kyle died. April 5th would have been his 15th birthday. And every weekday I catch myself sitting on the living room couch at 2:30 in the afternoon and waiting to see him get off the bus. I know Kyle is in heaven but I can’t help but wonder If I died and went to Hell.
Sadly, the information outlined in this email forward is true. On the 2nd March 2005, 14-year-old Kyle Williams of Painesville Township, Ohio died after inhaling Dust-Off. As outlined in the email, Dust-Off is a product that contains a compressed gas used for removing the dust from computers. Kyle’s father, Jeff is indeed a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio.
Unfortunately, many consumers are under the mistaken impression that Dust-Off and similar products contain a seemingly harmless product – compressed air. In fact, such products are commonly referred to as “canned air”. However, the products actually contain a compressed gas, NOT compressed air. Because of this misconception, parents and children may not realize how dangerous inhaling them can be. This is an important issue, as such seemingly trivial misconceptions can have a quite powerful influence on the way consumers conceive of and use a product. In fact, a representative from Falcon, the company that manufactures Dust-Off, has contacted me after reading an earlier version of this article. He states that:
We are hoping you can help clarify a misconception about our product. As you noted, most people refer to our product as “canned air”, when in reality the product is filled with a compressed-gas. Our company makes it a practice to never refer to the product in such a manner as it is misleading to consumers. We believe that referring to our product as “canned air” gives individuals a false sense of comfort and, therefore, they believe it to be harmless if directly inhaled.
An article on the Falcon website discusses use of the product more thoroughly, noting:
First and foremost, it is imperative to note that a computer cleaning duster is NOT “canned-air”. This misperception, can lead consumers to use the product in a manner that can be harmful to themselves or to the equipment they are cleaning.
Falcon has also published safety information about the product, including a Public Safety Announcement from the company’s CEO. Moreover, the Dust-Off cans carry a printed warning about the danger of inhaling the product.
It should be noted that, some months after the original warning email was first sent, mutated versions began to appear. One widely circulated version changed the name of the police officer involved and moved the setting to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. Another version moved the location to the United Kingdom. While the core information in these mutated messages is still valid, the modifications in the location and names of those involved are fabrications. Possibly, those who have chosen to modify the original message did so with the mistaken belief that “localizing” the message would increase its impact. However, such modifications do nothing more than dilute the power of the message and may cause some recipients to doubt its veracity. Regardless of the modifications made, the core issues raised in the message remain factual and important.
Perhaps we can help to prevent similar tragedies by taking steps to let others know about the dangers of inhalant abuse. Inhalant abuse, or “huffing”, is a serious problem that has killed and maimed many children and young adults around the world. It is important that parents and guardians educate themselves and their children about inhalant abuse. The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition website is an excellent resource on the subject.
Last updated: 5 May 2010
First published:12 May 2005
By Brett M. Christensen