At 17, Nicholas Douglas was the life of the party. The popular teen died in 2015 from chroming.
At 17, Nicholas Douglas was the life of the party. The popular teen died in 2015 from chroming.

’Rexona killed my son’: Chroming tore family apart

IT IS cheap, addictive and probably sitting in your home or your child's school backpack.

This week it was revealed children as young as 10 were passing out in gutters outside schools across the state because of chroming.

Queensland hospitals recorded a 32 per cent jump in chroming presentations, of which half were children aged between 10 and 19.

The practice killed five Queenslandrs in recent years.

The mother of a 17-year-old boy found dead on his bedroom floor surrounded by empty aerosol cans believes educating parents about the dangers of chroming was crucial to ending deaths from the practice.

Dianne Kendrick found her son Nicholas Douglas on his bedroom floor in 2015.

The former Glenella woman said she had no idea what chroming was or that her youngest son, Nicholas had an inhalant addiction.

"Rexona killed my son. The day he died there was a can of Rexona next to him," Ms Kendrick said.

Nicholas Douglas, 17, died in 2015 from chroming. His mum described him as a larrikin and the “most Aussie bloke ever”.
Nicholas Douglas, 17, died in 2015 from chroming. His mum described him as a larrikin and the “most Aussie bloke ever”.

The signs of Nick's addiction are blindingly obvious to Ms Kendrick four years after his death.

"It's not just spray paint. If parents in their home are using aerosols and you find the fly spray empty and you have not used it - ask your kids why," she said.

"The day my son died there was an empty can of fly spray sitting outside. We walked past it multiple times … had we known about chroming, we would have asked Nicholas the questions … we didn't get that opportunity."

Without knowing it, Ms Kendrick said she and Nick's father were supplying him with aerosols.

"I just thought he was a teenager having a shower in a can," she said.

Chroming has killed five Queenslanders in recent years.

Mackay Crime Prevention Unit Sergeant Nigel Dalton said chroming paint was rife in the community a decade ago. At the time, strategies were put in place to mitigate the problem.

Sgt Dalton said since then chroming was not affecting the Mackay community on the same scale.

Though, a new style of chroming that had emerged, using deodorant cans, was harder to police, he said.

A Queensland Health spokesman said chroming was "disproportionately" affecting vulnerable young people.

Two people presented to hospital in Mackay because of use of volatile solver last year.

A spokeswoman for Unilever, Rexona's parent company, said the company was "deeply concerned" about the impact chroming had on communities.

"Among other measures to address this issue, all of our products are labelled with warnings and guidelines on how to use aerosols safely, and we continue to work with retailers to ask that our aerosol deodorant products be contained in theft-reduction shelving in the most affected communities," they said.

"Volatile substance misuse is an enormously complex social issue affecting the entire aerosol industry with no simple solution, and the actions of one manufacturer alone will not solve it."

Ms Kendrick said the day she went to call Nicholas for dinner and instead found him dead on the floor changed her family forever.

"(Nicholas) didn't think chroming would kill him," Ms Kendrick said.

"This is worse than ice. It is dumb, it's stupid.

"Parents need to know."

 

What are the warning signs?

Someone who is using inhalants may show all or some of the following warning signs:

  • Looking or acting drunk, dazed, or dizzy.
  • Slurred or confused speech.
  • Trouble walking, off-balance or uncoordinated.
  • Red or runny eyes and nose, nosebleeds.
  • "Huffer's rash", spots and/or sores around the mouth.
  • Breath that smells like chemicals.
  • Stains, paint, glitter and/or chemical smell on skin or clothing
  • Nausea and/or loss of appetite.
  • Confusion, moodiness, irritability.
  • Many absences from school or work.

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