What Is Chroming? 13-Year-Old Girl's Death in Australia Raises Concern about Dangerous Social Media Trend of Inhaling Toxic Chemicals

Teenagers frequently use this method because deodorant cans are accessible and it has become popular on TikTok and other social media sites.

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The death of a 13-year-old Australian girl has raised concerns about a developing tendency that may threaten the lives of teenagers. The grieving parents of Esra Haynes who died after inhaling hazardous chemicals from a deodorant can are on a mission to make the life of their daughter count.

Haynes suffered a cardiac attack over the Easter long weekend after inhaling deodorant--an activity known as "chroming" -- at a friend's house in March this year. She suffered severe brain damage as a result of it and just over a week later, her parents had no choice but to turn off her life support.

Deadly Trend

Esra Haynes
Esra Haynes Twitter

Experts in Australia say chroming is a trend that's continuing to grow - but what exactly are the risks and should New Zealanders be concerned? Haynes' parents, Paul and Andrea, never saw it coming.

"It was just the regular routine of going to hang out with her mates," the devastated mother Andrea told "A Current Affair."

"We always knew where she was and we knew who she was with. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary," Paul added.

"To get this phone call at that time of night, (it) was one of the calls no parent ever wants to have to receive and we unfortunately got that call: 'Come and get your daughter.'

"We've got the pictures in our mind which will never be erased, you know, of what we were confronted with."

Esra Haynes
Esra Haynes Twitter

Haynes was being revived by paramedics after she collapsed, and they informed Andrea that she had been "chroming," a risky and popular activity among teens that involves inhaling chemicals from aerosol cans for a brief high.

The "beautiful" and "cheeky" Haynes died from that high after being transported to the hospital unconscious and put on life support.

"They're asking us to bring a family, friends to say goodbye to our 13-year-old daughter," Paul told "A Current Affair."

"It was a very, very difficult thing to do to such a young soul."

Imogen, Seth, and Charlie, Esra's older siblings, as well as her parents, "cuddled her until the end."

Esra Haynes
Esra Haynes suffered severe brain damage after chroming and died after a week Twitter

The 13-year-old Victorian girl is the most recent in a string of Australian teenage fatalities following "chroming."

In 2019, a 16-year-old New South Wales teenager died after he inhaled an aerosol. A Queensland teenager aged 16 experienced brain injury as a result of chroming in 2021. In 2022, another 16-year-old boy from the state died after sniffing deodorant.

What Is Chroming and Its Dangers

Chroming, sometimes known as huffing or sniffing, is the practice of obtaining a high by inhaling hazardous substances from aerosol cans of deodorant, paint, or gasoline. Teenagers frequently use this method because deodorant cans are accessible and it has become popular on TikTok and other social media sites.

Paul and Andrea
Paul and Andrea want to raise awareness about the perils of the deadly social media trend chroming Twitter

However, doing so can be extremely risky and has the potential to result in immediate death as well as long-term physical or cognitive harm.

According to Sarah MacLean, an associate professor at LaTrobe University, persistent users of these drugs can experience "significant neurological and cognitive impairment," including damage to their organs, bone marrow, and the brain and its functioning.

"They have the capacity for sudden death, but there is no telling who is going to die, when, or how with misuse," she explained.

Following a surge in deodorant thefts and amid worries about chroming, certain Coles and Woolworths stores across Australia began locking up their deodorant cans in 2021.

Following Haynes' passing, the Victorian Education Department accelerated efforts to warn children about the risks associated with chroming, and medical professionals have spoken out against it.

Even though the trend itself may not be new, it's important to know that social media, a platform that wasn't available in earlier decades, has played a part. To protect children from practices like chroming, parents of Esra Haynes are among those advocating for more regulations on social media.

They demand that aerosol makers change deodorant compositions to make them safer, that CPR be taught in all Australian schools, and that first aid knowledge be updated every two years.

Chroming (For representational purpose only) Twitter

"We want to help other children not fall into the silly trap of doing this silly thing. It's unquestionable that this will be our crusade," Paul Haynes, the girl's father, told Australian outlet the Herald Sun. "No matter how much you lead a horse to water, anyone can drag them away. It's not something she would have done on her own.

"For me, it's a pistol sitting on the shelf," Paul said of the deodorant cans.

"We need the manufacturers to step up and really change the formulation or the propellants."

He also said that social media needs to be closely monitored in order to "really lock down on the loopholes" that children use to obtain "adult content." The Hayneses believe that social media is how their daughter learned about chroming.

But above all, they want children and their families to be aware of the negative effects of chroming.

This article was first published on May 29, 2023