LETTER : Sniffing peril of self-cool cans

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report (19 June) that the world's drinks industry is contemplating marketing its products in a self-cooling can. As cooling takes place, the can releases the hydrofluorocarbon HFC 134a into the atmosphere. Objections have been raised because HFC 134a is a "greenhouse gas". We have another important warning.

HFC 134a has potential for deliberate misuse as a drug. Volatile substance abuse (VSA) remains a serious problem. We have data on over 250 deaths in the UK caused by the misuse of substances similar to HFC 134a when used as aerosol propellants or in fire extinguishers. The commonest age at death was 15 years.

Deaths from VSA continue despite considerable efforts on the part of retailers, manufacturers and trade associations to make products containing volatile substances, such as contact adhesives, cigarette lighter refills and aerosols, less accessible to youngsters.

If self-cooling cans were to be marketed for soft drinks they would be readily available to children and adolescents. They would contain a readily abusable substance, probably in an accessible form uncontaminated with non-respirable substances, all factors which increase the likelihood that a product will be abused.

JOHN RAMSEY

Toxicologist

St George's Hospital Medical School, VSA mortality monitoring group

ROSS ANDERSON

Epidemiologist

St George's Hospital Medical School, VSA mortality monitoring group

JENNIFER TAYLOR

Researcher

St George's Hospital Medical School, VSA mortality monitoring group

RICHARD IVES

Consultant to Solvent Misuse Project

National Children's Bureau

ROBERT FLANAGAN

Toxicologist

Medical Toxicology Unit

Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Trust

London, SW17

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