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Experts warn of dangers of sniffing aviation fuel

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CCTV footage shows young people climbing on to plane and siphoning fuel. Photo source: ABC News

(dpa/NAN) Health workers in Australia have warned of a “public health emergency” after footage emerged of young people in Northern Territory siphoning fuel from airplanes for sniffing.

The video showed children as young as 10 breaking into the remote Elcho Island Airport and climbing onto the wings of planes to siphon the fuel, known as avgas, which is toxic and extremely flammable.

According to the media report, one Australian health organisation estimates about 100 youngsters from nearby indigenous communities have been abusing the fuel.

No fewer than 10 people from the north-east Arnhem Land region have been hospitalised in Darwin, the Northern Territory capital.

“Our kids are ending up in hospital by getting infected by chemicals, which is bad for them,” John Gurrumgurrum Burarrwanga, a local Aboriginal elder, told newsmen.

Petrol sniffing has been a common occurrence in remote communities in Australia, but sniffing aviation fuel is a somewhat new phenomenon.

Report says it is considered even more dangerous than petrol sniffing because avgas contains lead, which can badly damage the brain and nervous system.

The Miwatj health chief, Lucas de Toca, said a number of kids have recorded high blood-lead levels, which can cause long-term cognitive and behavioural difficulties.

“Sniffing can be fatal, it’s a public health emergency,’’ he said.

The state government is providing money for a guard dog and security officer to patrol the airport overnight for the next three months.

“The government is working with health providers and community leaders to address the complex underlying causes of sniffing.

“We are supporting families with intervention and education services,’’ de Toca said.

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