A recent trend of sudden deaths in the county is connected to "air duster" electronics-cleaning products used to get high according to a published report.
The incident has prompted county scientists to write an academic paper drawing attention to the apparent drug abuse in San Diego County our media partner The North County Times reports.
Lain McIntyre, Chief Toxicologist at the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, said the number of bodies that test positive for the gas found in air duster products is on the rise.
The 25-page document describes 17 deaths reported in the last five years countywide, including two North County residents who died last year.
All 17 people tested positive for "1, 1-difluoroethane," the compressed volatile gas the products shoot out at high pressure to remove dust from electronics without touching them or leaving behind moisture.
"There are dangers out there, and when we find something of significance we try to alert not just the community, but the scientific community as well," McIntyre told the paper.
Air duster products such as Blast Away, were reportedly found near 14 of the bodies.
According to McIntyre, the San Diego examiner’s office is the only location looking for the substance during routine alcohol screenings.
These products are widely sold at electronic stores and other retailers for about $6 per 12-ounce can. Small amounts inhaled during normal use of the product rarely causes health problems, because the body can quickly expel the gas.
Intentional exposure to the product can kill users suddenly. People without immediate results can suffer brain damage from continuous use as the brain is being deprived of oxygen, said Dr. Lee Cantrell, Interim Director of San Diego division of the California Poison Control System.
According to Cantrell, "There's more than one way this stuff can kill you."
For more on this story visit the North County Times website.
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Published at 8:17 AM PST on Feb 27, 2012