Petrol sniffing stunts growth: new study

A petrol bowser in rural SE Asia. Photo by Thomas Keeble.

Petrol sniffing stunts growth — and users don’t catch up even if they stop, researchers at Victoria’s Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health have found.

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health is the largest brain research group in the Southern Hemisphere.

The research, published in the Addiction Research and Theory journal, will be used to help health workers determine if teens are abusing inhalants.

A group of Indigenous males from the Northern Territory were studied.

Those with a history of petrol sniffing were an average six centimetres shorter than those who didn’t sniff. They were also about seven kilograms lighter.

Florey PhD student Rose Crossin and Dr Jhodie Duncan, head of the Florey’s Inhalant Addiction laboratory, analysed data from 118 males over two years.

Of the group, 86 chronically inhaled petrol during their teenage years, starting at an average age of 13.

The risks of sniffing petrol include sudden death from lack of oxygen.

Ms Crossin found sniffing petrol ‘pressed the pause button’ on the user’s growth trajectory.

Even after they stopped sniffing, they didn’t make up the height — though they did the weight.

Petrol sniffing in the NT came to prominence after a spate of break-ins to regional airfields in which aviation fuel, or AvGas, was stolen for abuse by local youth.

The research was conducted by the Florey, Flinders University, Ninti One, Menzies School of Health Research and the University of Adelaide.

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