A 14-year-old honor student from Northridge, California died this week after inhaling computer keyboard cleaner, a growing trend among students as young as eighth grade.
"I'm positive my daughter didn't realize it had the potential to kill her," Carolyn Doherty said.
A straight-A student at Nobel Middle School, Aria Doherty died Monday. She’d been home alone for a couple hours when she inhaled the duster. Her parents believe it was her first time huffing – also known as bagging or dusting.
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Her older sister found Aria in bed with a can of compressed air still attached to her mouth, her nostrils taped shut. A plastic bag was found nearby.
"I would give anything to have her back," said Richard Doherty, Aria’s father. "It just took her, like that."
"I just miss her. I wish she was here. It doesn't seem real," he said through tears.
The Dohertys kept no dangerous weapons in their Porter Ranch home, stored prescription drugs under lock and key, and recently purged their home of all alcohol. They talked to their teen daughters about the dangers of substance abuse.
But authorities said the practice of huffing does not involve the typical chemical culprits. Inhaling household cleaners, paint or glue offers a quick high and they’re accessible.
"Death can happen very quickly. It can happen the first time," said Kezia Miller, a counselor with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Counselors are available at Nobel Middle School and are planning an inhalant education program for Aria's peers.
"These are substances that are poison," Miller said. "They're toxic and they're being ingested."
Long-term effects of inhalants include damage to the kidney, liver and brain. Short-term dangers include heart problems.
"When you mess with the cardiac system, the electrical system of the heart, you can have a lot of issues, like arrhythmia," said Dr. Michael Lewis, with Northridge Hospital Medical Center.
It’s possible the computer cleaner caused cardiac arrest or the teen asphyxiated. An autopsy is pending.
The Dohertys said they want their daughter’s death to be a message to other parents to be aware of this developing threat.
"We didn’t know," Carolyn said. "But clearly, the kids do know."