Household gas huffing is becoming more common in Mongolia. Two children died last week from inhaling fumes from portable gas canisters to get high. Five 17 to 18 year old teenagers were taken to the hospital in Khan-Uul District on April 30 after huffing gas, and one of them died.
On May 2, the Khan-Uul Police Department reported that they caught six teenagers inhaling household gas, and one of them died. The National Police Agency says they received 30 calls related to the abuse of inhalants in 2016, and 56 children were arrested. Five of them died. In 2017, the National Police Agency says it has received 17 calls and two teenagers have died.
In these reported cases, teenagers – especially boys – are becoming addicted to inhaling fumes from gas, glue, and gasoline. Household gas huffing isn’t new in Mongolia, and two or three teenagers die from abusing inhalants every year. The most tragic thing is that most of the people inhaling gas are teenagers, the future of Mongolia. These teenagers don’t know the consequences of huffing gas.
One young man, 26, who used to abuse inhalants when he was younger, said, “I first learned about household gas huffing from my friend. He taught me how to inhale. I liked it, and it became a regular thing for me. After that, I taught it to my classmates and we started doing it together. I didn’t know the dangers of it because I was a child. We passed out for one minute after inhaling gas. We called that ‘flying off’.
We were addicted to it. One of us died after inhaling gas. I didn’t see him die myself, I heard he passed out and never woke up again. We stopped inhaling gas after that tragedy.”
A doctor in the poisoning ward of the Military Hospital said about effects of huffing, “Household gas contains tons of chemical substances. Propane and butane are the most dangerous substances. Your brain will experience oxygen deficiency after inhaling household gas. In addition, household gas kills brain cells. Of course, the brain controls our body. What happens if your brain cells are killed? You will die.”
Senior expert from the National Police Agency G.Zoljargal said, “Teenagers influence each other negatively. They inhale gas, glue, and other substances together. Parents have to talk to their children. Teenagers always complain about their parents, and say that they don’t understand them. Plus, stores selling household gas should ask children that what are they going to do with it. They don’t have to sell household gas to children under 21, but could limit it to adults.”
The Ulaanbaatar City Council released an order not to sell tobacco, alcohol, or household gas to people under 21 in 2010, but they repealed the order in 2014.
Anyone can buy household gas from a store. The price for a can of gas for a portable stove is 2,000 MNT. It is quite cheap to purchase. If shop assistants refuse to sell gas canisters to teenagers, they could keep them from abusing it and save them from death. It is almost impossible to monitor all the stores selling gas to teenagers, so the only way to prevent teenagers from inhaling it is to not to allow them to buy it.