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Teens Sniffing Typewriter Correction Fluid To Get High

March 15, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ Using typewriter correction fluid as a recreational drug is on the rise among teen-agers, say New Mexico doctors who have recorded six sudden deaths among youths who had sniffed the solvent-based liquid to get ″high.″

″It’s important that people involved with school programs or the health of school children be aware of the problem and the fact that it has a potential for death,″ said Dr. John E. Smialek, a pathologist at the University of New Mexico and one of the writers of a report in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Chemicals in the fluid appear to trigger irregularities in heartbeat, precipitating heart failure, Smialek said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

″Typewriter correction fluid, marketed as Liquid Paper, Wite-Out, Sno- pake, and commonly referred to as ‘white-out,’ is a readily available and inexpensive agent now being used by teen-agers to obtain a rapid ‘high’ by inhalation,″ the doctors said.

Over a 51/2 -year period ending in 1984, New Mexico officials recorded four sudden deaths among youths who had been sniffing the fluid, doctors said. A fifth fatality during this period was at least partly blamed on abuse of the fluid, and another teen death linked with sniffing fluid occurred recently, Smialek said.

″Typewriter correction fluid appears to be gaining popularity as an agent of abuse within our school-age population,″ the doctors said in their report.

Restricting sales of fluid to minors ″would be a useful preventive approach″ to the problem, Smialek said.

The Gillette Co., maker of market-leading Liquid Paper, has changed labels to read: ″Warning: intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal.″

Gillette also has reformulated Liquid Paper and Liquid Paper Thinner with mustard oil to discourage abuse.

Most correction fluids contain chlorinated hydrocarbons used as industrial degreasers and solvents, the doctors said.

Two such chemicals - 1,1,1-trichlorethane and trichloroethylene - were found in the youngsters in the doctors’ report. No other cause of death was apparent from autopsies, Smialek said.

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