Preventing Refrigerant Inhalant Abuse


What HVACR Contractors Can Do

A damaged AC unit may seem like a routine service call, but it could be an indicator of something very serious – refrigerant inhalant abuse.

Inhaling chemicals is far more prevalent than some believe.  In fact, one in five American teens has used household products, including refrigerants, to get high. “Sniffing” or “huffing” chemicals is also the high of choice for some 6 - 12 year olds.  Consequences are severe and can result in death (Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome) – even on the first use.

March 16 through March 22 is National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week (NIPAW) and the Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE) is urging members of the HVACR community to be on “high alert” for signs of refrigerant abuse. As an HVACR contractor, you may be the first to spot signs of abuse and your awareness may save a life.

Watch for the following signs that may signal inhalant abuse:

  • Frequent AC repair calls to the same home or neighborhood
  • Refrigerant runs low prematurely
  • Damaged AC units

Parents are often unaware of the abuse and by the time they find out their child is abusing inhalants, it’s too late.

What can you do?

  • When you spot these signs, share your knowledge and approach homeowners in a considerate manner.  Remember, the signs do not confirm abuse and inhalant abusers could be anyone - those who live in the home, or others in the neighborhood.
  • Offer refrigerant locking caps to homeowners.
  • Provide brochures to your customers to help raise awareness.  You may request free brochures at

Do you have a refrigerant inhalant experience you would like to share?  We encourage you to post it at  Your story can make a difference.

By Colleen Creighton

Executive Director of ACE

Contact Colleen at: