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Air Conditioning Refrigerant Huffing Among Teens On The Rise

For the more than 25 years there has been several reports of teenagers dying each year from huffing or breathing in air conditioning refrigerant to get high. Huffing or breathing in refrigerant can be very dangerous, as it freezes the lungs and causes a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. A single use can result in sudden death.

We would all like to think that this only happens in other cities or states but it is happening in our own neighborhoods. Just last year TMC received a call from an upset Smyrna, TN parent asking if we could help keep their child from huffing refrigerant from their own air conditioner. They had found their child lying beside the air conditioner unconscious with refrigerant leaking from the unit. Thankfully the child had recovered but the parents were at a loss as to how to prevent this from happening again. Working with the parents we installed locking refrigerant caps on the service valves of their AC unit to prevent anyone unwanted from removing the caps. Most all professional HVAC service technicians carry a key for this type cap so service can be performed.

Some communities are taking an aggressive approach by adding the locking refrigerant caps to local codes for all new HVAC installations. Franklin, TN in the last 2 years has made this part of its code due to cases of refrigerant huffing cases in their area.

Some signs that the refrigerant in your air conditioner has been tampered with are loose refrigerant caps, refrigerant caps lying on the ground by your unit or missing. Also if your AC system is not cooling correctly and the technician diagnoses the issue as low refrigerant with no signs of a detectable leak. Be aware of anyone close to your air conditioning unit. Look for signs of refrigerant huffing such as someone laughing uncontrollably, stumbling over or just sitting in a dazed stupor.

Almost every home has an air conditioning unit, but most parents have no idea that what’s inside them can be used by a teenager to get high. And the results can be tragic.

If you have any suspicion that your air conditioner has been tampered with please contact TMC to have your system inspected. Be alert to the danger signs!