A VOLUNTEER litter-picker from Stramshall has raised concerns after finding three 12” canisters of nitrous oxide – known as laughing gas – discarded in the village.
Alma Crosby highlighted the issue on Facebook, after finding the plastic containers while walking through Stramshall last week.
It is an offence to misuse nitrous oxide, although it is available to buy in shops and online.
Alma, who has previously come across evidence of misuse, was concerned over the size of the canisters she found.
She said: “It was a few months ago that I found these little silver things, like bullets, in the lay-by at Spath. I used my litter-picker to collect them all, but there must have been more than 20.
“I didn’t know what they were. My son explained they were used to make whipped cream, but were sometimes misused as a way to get high. I was shocked to be honest.
“When I saw the first large white canister, I thought it was something that had perhaps fallen out of a plumber’s van. These were industrial size!
“I was worried in case a small child had found the canisters as they are potentially flammable and also that people have been misusing nitrous oxide and then driving through the village.
“I just think everyone should be aware.”
Misuse of nitrous oxide – which is also known as chargers, balloons, hippie crack, noz and whippits, can result in dizziness, dissociation and temporary loss of motor control.
Inhaling too much nitrous oxide can include risk of falling unconscious, suffocating from lack of oxygen, and death.
A spokesperson for Staffordshire Police said: “Officers will be carrying out regular proactive patrols in hotspot areas.
“They will also be working with local partner agencies to engage with suspected users, educate them of the risks it poses, and develop an understanding of the scale of the issue.
“If residents do have concerns, they are asked to speak to their local police community support officer, call 101, or report online via the force’s website.
“They can also send a direct message on Facebook or Twitter.”
Currently, nitrous oxide can be bought in shops or online, but since March 2020, the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has been campaigning for a ban on retail sales, so only those using the gas for legitimate purposes would be able to buy it from a wholesaler.
Ellen Daniels, chief executive of the BCGA, said: “Inhalation of nitrous oxide is highly dangerous.
“Many of those who inhale it do not appreciate its harm, partly because of slang terms which trivialise its use such as laughing gas, noz and balloons.
“We are calling on the Government to introduce a ban on consumer sales of nitrous oxide, to make it less easy for people to purchase, but allow for legitimate uses in the medical, food, chemical and sports industries.
“According to statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2019, showed that half a million young people had used nitrous oxide and 12% of substance-related deaths mentioned nitrogen or nitrous oxide on the death certificate.
“We have been raising awareness about the dangers of misusing nitrous oxide, including issuing a guide for schools.”
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