Cans of compressed air used to clean computers are safe and effective when used properly. However, if misused they can be dangerous and potentially lethal. A can of compressed air contains a propellant that maintains the pressure needed to force the substance through the can's nozzle. Popular with teenagers because it is cheap and easy to buy, inhaling computer cleaner is also called "huffing" or "dusting" and results in serious consequences.
When you inhale chemicals, including canned computer cleaner, your lungs absorb the chemicals and distribute them through the body. This brings on a feeling of intoxication, including confusion, lightheadedness and euphoria. Users may become dizzy, experience a lack of judgment and develop headaches. The chemical may slur their speech and lead to temporary paralysis lasting five minutes or longer. Sometimes inhaling causes muscle spasms, abdominal pain and hallucinations. Some users suffer from nausea and vomiting. Users may complain of numbness in the throat and tongue. Visible signs that someone may have been inhaling computer cleaner are watery eyes and a red, runny nose.
Frequent dusters can damage the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls memory. They may become unable to learn new things or may have a hard time participating in conversations. Long-term inhalant abuse also can break down a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects some nerve fibers in the body. This tissue helps nerve fibers carry their messages quickly and efficiently. Damage to the tissue leads to difficulty performing basic actions such as talking and walking. Other effects suffered by long-term inhaling of computer cleaner are a lack of coordination, weight loss, muscle weakness, damage to the kidney or liver and depression. Most of these effects are irreversible and life-threatening.
Many of the effects caused by frequent huffing, including kidney and liver damage, weight loss and depression can eventually lead to death. However, infrequent or even first-time users can die from inhaling computer cleaner. Any user, whether frequent, long-term or first-time, can die from a condition called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. The condition causes heart failure and may strike any person any time he inhales the chemicals in solvents and aerosol sprays. In the United Kingdom, 39 percent of huffing deaths occurred during the user's first time.