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Warning of aerosol 'menace'.

Byline: By Lauren Turner South Wales Echo

The grieving mum of a tragic 14-year-old girl has pleaded with young people not to try solvents.

Cardiff Coroner Mary Hassell ruled yesterday that young Helen Coffey, of Newport Road, Cardiff, was killed experimenting with aerosols.

Youth workers today said solvent abuse is a hidden menace that kills more people than ecstasy every year.

Mum Agnes Coffey said: 'We recognise the verdict of the coroner, and hope this senseless, tragic death will warn parents and teenagers of the dangers of solvent abuse.' Tragedy exposes 'hidden menace' of solvent abuse: Solvent abuse is a hidden menace growing among young people, it was warned today after a schoolgirl died when she secretly inhaled aerosol fumes.

A former youth worker spoke out about the dangers of addiction to solvents after an inquest heard about the death of an 14-year-old after she had experimented with an aerosol can.

Helen Coffey was found shaking and foaming at the mouth by her older sister Dorothy at the family home in Newport Road, Rumney, Cardiff, in April, last year.

Yesterday, an inquest at Cardiff Coroner's Court heard her mother Agnes believed she had been smoking and had been using the can of fabric spray to mask the smell.

But leading toxicology expert Dr Robert Flanagan, of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London, said it was impossible Helen, of Rumney, Cardiff, had inhaled fatal amounts of the fabric deodorant by accident.

He said: 'We all use these products on a day-to-day basis without coming to any harm.'

The inquest heard crime scene investigators found a can of Neutradol Deofab fabric deodorant in the bathroom of the Newport Road home. An air freshener was also found in Helen's room, in a pile of clothes.

Recording a verdict of death by non-dependent drug abuse, Coroner Mary Hassell saying: 'Helen was abusing the aerosol, and that's how she inhaled the substance that in ordinary use is simply not toxic, but when abused is terribly, terribly dangerous.'

Today teacher Philomena Vaughan, a former therapist who helped children overcome drug and solvent problems said the solvent abuse was on the increase.

'In the last 20 years there has been a perception that the problem of solvent abuse has gone away because people having problems with harder drugs have been in the news,' she said.

'But I believe that solvent abuse has definitely increased in the last 15 years, probably by up to 15 or 20 per cent.

'I don't think people realise how big a problem solvent abuse is or how serious a problem it is.

'Children will use them because there is no way they can afford to get harder drugs, but very often, the harder drugs will follow as children get older and get access to more money.

'There are people out there who offer support to them but it is a very difficult job.

'I just feel sorry for this young girl's family and any family who has to go through this.' Parents in aerosols warning: The parents of 14-year-old Helen Coffey say they hope others will learn of the dangers of inhaling aerosol sprays.

After the inquest, her parents Agnes and Jim Coffey issued a statement, saying: 'We wish to thank friends and family for the tremendous assistance throughout this ordeal.

'Helen was a young and vibrant teenager with a zest for life. Her death has been a great tragedy, and she is missed by all who knew her.

'We recognise the verdict of the coroner, and hope this senseless, tragic death will serve some warning to other parents and teenagers of the dangers of solvent abuse.

'It is worrying that many more die every year from solvent abuse than taking Ecstasy. We hope some comfort can be brought to us by warning other people.' SHOCKING STATISTICS: Between five and 10 per cent of 10 to 15 year olds will experiment with solvents.

There are about 50,000 solvent abusers in the UK.

There are 50 deaths a year from solvent abuse.

Between 60 and 70 per cent of deaths from solvent abuse are in young people under the age of 20.

More males die from solvent abuse but the number of deaths among females is growing.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 28, 2006
Words:705
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