Inhalant Trends Using Poison Control Data (NPDS)
Poison control data can be used to monitor inhalant use and focus prevention efforts on the most harmful products. Propellants have become the most often involved product with butane the most lethal in 2008, while dusters have taken the lead in more recent years. Although both genders are often equally involved in the use of propellants, boys appear to have more severe outcomes.
Looking at data from the National Poison Data System (NPDS) which includes the 60 U.S. poison centers, 35,453 inhalant cases were reviewed from 1993 – 2008. The majority of the cases involved 12 – 17 year olds with 73.5% of them occurring with boys. More than 3400 inhalant products were identified with propellants, gasoline, and paint being most frequently involved. Although inhalant products change with years and geographic location in the U.S., propellants were the one product category which has continued to increase over time.
Using this data:
The 20 Most Frequently Implicated Product Categories included: (1992-2008) PCSD)
Propellants (15.6%) – more than half of the identified propellants were aerosol dusters, while the remaining were fluorocarbons.
Paint – 81.8% of paint products were aerosols.
Other hydrocarbons included paint thinner, lighter fluid, and asphyxiants such as butane, helium and propane.
The 25 Most Frequently Implicated Products Involved in Fatalities from this data 1993-2008 (30,094 incidents) were:
Butane (36 deaths); Air Freshener (27 deaths); fluorocarbons (14 deaths); dusters (13 deaths); Nitrous Oxide (10 deaths); and Propane (7 deaths). Other inhalants listed were: carburetor cleaners, freon, nitrates/nitrites, adhesive/glue, hair spray, disinfectants, polishes/waxes, paint thinner, correction fluid, paint gasoline, helium, formalin/formaldehyde, deodorant, ethanol (nonbeverage), albuterol, marker/ink, nail polish and nail polish remover. Looking at this same data from a single year (2007) during this time span, there were 6 inhalant deaths. Two females and 4 males used the inhalants; furniture polish, Difluoroethane (duster), Fluorochlorocarbon (duster and other aerosols), Hydrocarbon, and Toluene. All individuals were between the ages of 18 and 28 years old.
In 2017, poison center data portrayed an accelerated use of inhalants with 41 inhalant deaths being identified. Products involved included ethyl chloride, propane, helium, hydrocarbon (fluorinated – likely duster), toluene, and nitrous oxide. There were 10 females, 32 males, and 1 unknown identified. Two of these individuals were 17 years old, while 8 were in their twenties, 20 were in their thirties, 6 were in their forties, and 6 were over the age of 50. This data supports the theory that inhalant use has transitioned into an adult problem. The occurrence of Sudden Death with inhalants and the fact they are often perceived as less harmless/risky than other drugs contributes to high death rates. (Marsolek, White, and Litovitz, 2010)