Compressed Gas Dusting Injuries

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Robins Kaplan LLP is investigating “dusting” cases, which arise when someone inhales—or “huffs”—compressed gas dusting spray for its intoxicating effects while driving and then strikes a pedestrian or other driver, killing or catastrophically injuring that innocent bystander.

What is Compressed Gas Dusting Spray?

A compressed gas dusting spray is typically marketed for use as a dust and lint remover for computer keyboards and other electronics. The compressed gas dusting sprays work by blowing a stream of high pressure gas out of an aerosol-type can to clear dust and debris from the surface of whatever product or device is being cleaned. Compressed gas dusting sprays are commonly referred to as “dust-off,” but there have been several manufacturers of the product over the years. The two major brand names are “Dust-Off” and “Ultra Duster.” There have been several manufacturers of the product over the years, so these are not the only brands out there (for example 3M has or had their own 3M branded dusting spray).

Compressed gas dusting sprays are often erroneously—and with deadly consequences—referred to as “compressed air” or “canned air.” These sprays, in fact, contain no air whatsoever. The active ingredient of compressed gas dusting sprays is 1-1, difluoroethane (or “DFE”). DFE is a refrigerant-based propellant, and when added to other products (like shaving cream, for example), acts to propel the product out of the can. In the case of compressed gas dusting sprays, the DFE is the only product in the can. 

What are the Effects of Compressed Gas Abuse?

DFE is not a harmless gas. Inhaling the gas, known as “dusting,” causes a near-immediate narcotic-like intoxicating effect for a brief period of time that will often cause the inhaler to pass out nearly instantly. We are seeing substantial evidence of widespread abuse of this product nationwide because not only is it very cheap relative to other drugs, but it can be easily purchased without restrictions and in any quantity in most jurisdictions right off of the retailer’s shelf. This makes the product easily accessible to children and adolescents. In fact, approximately 9% of people in the United States over 12 years old have misused products like compressed gas dusting sprays for their intoxicating effects.1 This is a nationwide epidemic.

Dusting can cause a sense of euphoria that lasts only minutes, but can be prolonged by continued use.2 Dusting provides a cheap and very accessible alternative to alcohol, marijuana, and other substances.3 The euphoric effect of dusting is often followed by dizziness, loss of coordination, control, suffocation, loss of consciousness, and death.4

The harmful effects of DFE extend well beyond just the person inhaling the product. When a person inhales the product while driving, they often lose consciousness or coordination and lose control of their vehicle, striking pedestrians or other vehicles. This results in catastrophic injuries and death to innocent bystanders—devastating the lives of many people and their families. We believe that dozens—if not more—of these tragic incidents occur every year throughout the country.

Attorney Phil Sieff discussed these issues in a recent interview with Fox9 News.

Have you Been Injured by Someone under the Influence of Compressed Gas?

These many deaths and injuries are all completely preventable. That people inhale the dusting spray for its intoxicating effect has been known to the manufacturers for many years. About 15 years ago the manufacturers of these products started to add a bitterant to the spray specifically to deter people from inhaling the product. However, the bitterant is effectively useless as a deterrent.

The evidence we’ve seen also clearly demonstrates that, in addition to the manufacturers, certain nationwide retailers have known for years that the dusting sprays are abused for their intoxicating effects and that the bitterant employed in the dusting sprays is ineffective, yet they continue to sell these products at incredible volume without regard to their clearly defective design and inadequate warnings.

At Robins Kaplan we’re committed to holding the compressed gas dusting spray manufacturers and retailers accountable for the devastating injuries and deaths these innocent bystanders have suffered as a result of the completely foreseeable and preventable misuse of their products.

Call our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys

At Robins Kaplan, our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience taking cases to trial, holding negligent parties accountable for their actions, and seeking the maximum possible compensation for our clients.

Year after year, our trial attorneys have been recognized for achieving significant recoveries for our clients. Our lawyers have appeared on CBS NewsGood Morning America (ABC), Dateline NBC, and other news programs and have been consistently named "Super Lawyers," and "Best Lawyers in America."*

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a driver who was under the influence of compressed air, our experienced attorneys can help you seek compensation. Call us at 1.800.207.6771 or complete our free case evaluation form.

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