Kansas Woman Found Huffing Canned Air in Walmart, Face Suffers Frostbite

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OLATHE, Kan.-- A woman is facing charges for getting high at a Johnson County Walmart.

Melissa Ann Wright is accused of huffing an industrial strength duster chemical that's normally used to clean computers. Someone said they saw the woman huffing a can of Ultra Duster about 11 p.m. Wednesday inside the Walmart near East Santa Fe Street and South Black Bob Road. The person called 911.

The spray is supposed to be used as a cleaner. The bottle warns that inhaling it can be harmful or even cause death.

"Once it enters the system it causes the heart to become super sensitive to things like adrenaline," said Tama Sawyer, the managing director of the University of Kansas Poison Control Center. "So if you are frightened, you can have a heart attack."

Police called an ambulance, but said Wright refused medical attention.

"It can cause you to pass out fairly quickly because it removes the oxygen in your lungs," Sawyer said.

One of the most common injuries from huffing is instant frostbite.

"They cause frostbite on contact. So you would have frostbite of the lips, throat, mouth and even further down," Sawyer said.

Because of those dangers and the fact it can cause a liver or kidney to shut down. The makers of the product added a bitter taste to discourage abuse.

University of Kansas Hospital said huffing calls are rare and police agree. They say it's pretty uncommon to charge anyone with abusing toxic vapors. Doctors say other drugs have become increasingly more popular.

Experts say someone might use compressed air to get high not because they're addicted to the chemical inside, but instead are addicted to the way it makes them feel. They say it can be similar to a drunk-intoxicated type of feeling.


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