Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Opal fuel can kill, inquest told

A NEW "non-sniffable" fuel designed to combat petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities can kill when inhaled, an inquest has been told.
A 12-year-old boy died after sniffing Opal fuel at Hermannsburg, 120 kilometres west of Alice Springs, after a youth disco in April this year.
His death is the first known casualty from sniffing the new fuel, which has much lower levels of the aromatics that provide sniffers with a "high" when compared with standard unleaded petrol.
Made by BP, Opal has been credited with dramatically reducing petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities since first being introduced in 2005, and has since been rolled out across central Australia.
But an inquest in Alice Springs was told yesterday that the boy who died was a regular sniffer and his case would be "of some public interest" because of the broadly held belief Opal is not harmful if inhaled.
"(There is) a perception that Opal fuel is not able to be sniffed and indeed … BP refers to it as 'Opal non-sniffable'," counsel assisting the coroner Celia Kemp told the inquest.
"Your honour will hear evidence that this is not the case. Like any volatile substance, Opal can be sniffed, and can be fatal when sniffed. However, it is much less appealing to sniffers because it does not cause them to become high in the way unleaded petrol does."
The case was adjourned to March.

taken from The Age