A 16-year-old Fairfax County boy died early Sunday shortly after inhaling a concentrated dose of an aerosol nonstick skillet coating called Pam in what police called an apparent quest for a narcotic "high."
Officers said Roswell L. Hufand, of 5523 Beaconsfield Ct., near Burke, was pronounced dead on arrival at a Fairfax fire and rescue squad office shortly after the incident at 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
They said the youth had been driving around the county with a friend when he sprayed the Pam into a plastic bag, put his head into the bag and inhaled deeply. Then, the report said, he started screaming.
Dr. James C. Beyer, the Fairfax County medical examiner, said the death was not unusual. Over the past 10 years or so, he said, in an era marked by widespread experimentation with drugs and other substances, dozens of teen-agers have died from sniffing or smoking chemicals that are otherwise harmless in everyday use.
Teen-agers in quest of a narcotic "high," he said, have inhaled everything from hairspray to deodorant, and dozens of the cases have been fatal.
"Usually it is the propellent that is dangerous," he said. In the case of Pam, he said, "it appears to produce a cardiac arrhythmia and almost instant death."
A doctor at Fairfax Hospital's emergency room, who asked not to be identified, said the hospital had received a rash of Pam-sniffing cases a year or so ago. "But I thought the word had gotten around by now among the teen-agers" about the dangers of the practice, he said.
Similar cases, producing bronchial paralysis and cardiac arrest, had occurred among teenagers smoking marijuana sprayed with such things as the chemical PCP (angel dust) or even Black Flag insecticide, he said.
"Usually it's the healthiest, most robust kids who get into this, for some reason," he said. "It just closes down their airway, apparently, and they can't breathe. Many of them are dead within minutes."