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Wal-Mart caller reports woman huffing computer cleaner

Emergency medical crews responded to a late night call recently, when a person at a Kansas Wal-Mart reported seeing a woman inhaling a computer cleaning agent. Reports did not identify the 911 caller or say whether the woman, accused of huffing a can of Ultra Duster, was a customer. The woman facing drug charges refused to let Olathe responders treat her.

The compressed air in a can of Ultra Duster contains difluoroethane, according to the manufacturer's material safety data sheet. Inhaling the industrial strength cleaning chemical produces a high similar to alcohol intoxication, but the practice can cause serious health problems. The chemical vapor, purposely treated with a bitter taste to discourage abuse, reduces oxygen in the lungs that can lead quickly to unconsciousness and possible death.

Abuse of computer cleaner creates heart irregularities. Contact with the chemical in liquid form can cause instant mouth and internal frostbite injuries -- in some cases, the kidneys or liver cease to function. The cleaning chemical apparently is not addictive but the effects the substance produces is.

State law forbids the unlawful abuse of toxic vapors. Possessing, purchasing or using the substances intentionally to get high, alone or in combination with other chemicals, is a misdemeanor. Reports said Kansas authorities rarely file toxic vapors charges, at least compared to charges for other types of more popular drugs.

A conviction for toxic vapors abuse may lead to a court order for substance abuse evaluation and treatment. A criminal record including a drug arrest or conviction also can have a long-term, negative effect on a defendant's personal and professional life. A criminal history can impact employment, financial, housing and educational opportunities.

Criminal defense attorneys help drug defendants avoid as many serious consequences as possible by working to have charges dropped or reduced. Depending upon the severity of the charge and defendant eligibility, prosecution may be avoided through a drug diversion agreement.

Source: WTVR.com, "Woman accused of doing the unthinkable to get high in Walmart," CNN, Aug. 28, 2015

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