South Tyneside Council is warning of the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide after discarded cartridges were sighted around the Borough.
Nitrous oxide, otherwise known as 'laughing gas', has several legitimate uses. But when it is inhaled, it can lead to loss of blood pressure, giving the feeling of light headedness or euphoria due to the lack of oxygen. It can cause fainting, unconsciousness, heart attack and even death. Mixing alcohol with nitrous oxide can be lethal.
The Council is warning of the risks posed by nitrous oxide, and the balloons used to inhale it, after a number of small silver metal canisters were spotted discarded in the South Shields seafront, The Leas and Riverside areas over recent weeks.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: "We have been made aware of empty nitrous oxide cartridges littering some areas of the Borough. Using nitrous oxide for anything other than what it is intended for, is extremely dangerous, even fatal.
"We want to help raise awareness of the dangers of inhaling this gas, particularly among parents. Despite the restrictions that are still in place, it is evident that some young people are still congregating in groups and it is important that their parents know where they are and what they are doing. I'm sure many would be horrified if they thought their children were messing around with nitrous oxide.
"We hope that by highlighting the issue we can help to safeguard our young people while also reducing the associated anti-social behaviour and littering, which has a negative impact on our communities."
Nitrous oxide has legitimate uses in medicine and dentistry for sedation and pain relief as well as in the catering industry.
However, it is illegal to sell or import nitrous oxide for inhalation under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
Inspector Phil Baker of Northumbria Police said: "We are aware of issues around the use of nitrous oxide and empty cartridges which have been found in various areas of South Tyneside.
"We are working closely with the Council and other partners on this issue and will continue to respond to reports from the public where this has been linked to anti-social behaviour."
According to the Office of National Statistics, on average five people die every year after inhaling the gas.