A teenage girl who turned to inhaling aerosols while battling anxiety was found dead on her bedroom floor after a suspected heart attack.
Assistant school principal Anne Ryan found her 16-year-old daughter Brooke dead in their home in Broken Hill, in far western NSW, on February 3.
Brooke, a gifted athlete and bright student, was lying face down with a can of deodorant and a tea towel beneath her.
Brooke Ryan (pictured) was found dead, lying face down with a can of deodorant and a tea towel beneath her
She had been been sniffing aerosols, which is also known as ‘chroming’, ‘huffing’ or inhalant abuse.
Her grieving mum has spoken out on Mother’s Day about the ‘nightmare’ she endured since finding her daughter’s body.
Ms Ryan had no idea her daughter was abusing inhalants, and warned parents about what to watch out for.
‘I wake up, I think of her, I go to sleep and think of her… Every day is a nightmare,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Warning signs include someone suddenly having a lot of headaches, using more deodorant or other aerosols than usual, and white patches on tea towels or hand towels.
Ms Ryan wants more education about the risk of inhalants aimed at both parents and young people in schools.
She also called for better labelling on aerosol cans to warn of the risks.
Chroming has become such a danger to teenagers in recent years that in the outback Queensland town of Mt Isa, Coles, Kmart, and Woolworths locked up their aerosols last year.
Youth workers pleaded with shops to move the products from shelves into locked cabinets as so many children were inhaling the toxic chemicals.
Children as young as seven were becoming addicted to the high they got from fumes of deodorant cans, paint tins, peroxides, and hair dyes.
As well as her mum, Brooke left behind her dad Deon, three older brothers, her boyfriend, and a great many friends.
Chroming has become such a danger to teenagers in recent years that in the outback Queensland town of Mt Isa, Coles, Kmart and Woolworths locked up their aerosols (pictured)
‘She was a beautiful girl with a heart of gold, who’s just so sorely missed, and would be absolutely devastated to know the negative impact she’s had on so many people from her death,’ Ms Ryan said.
Her mother said Brooke struggled with anxiety, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, like many teenagers.
But she had a lot of support and was determined to get through it. She played basketball, netball and soccer and was so good at AFL she was scouted by GWS Giants.
AFL Broken Hill mourned Brooke on Facebook, saying she ‘was a talented and popular member of the North Football Club and GWS academy squad’.
Brooke, who was just a week away from starting Year 11 when she died, wanted to be a lawyer, physiotherapist, or beautician.
Though Brooke Ryan (pictured) was an ‘effervescent person’, she had struggled with anxiety
Though the coroner’s report has not yet been handed down, but Ms Ryan believes her daughter died from sudden sniffing death syndrome, a potential side effect of abusing aerosols.
Brooke’s body was also covered in bruises, suggesting she may have had a heart attack triggered by sniffing the inhalant.
Calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre about inhalant abuse nearly doubled between 2017 and 2020.
From 2010 to 2017, there were 50 to 60 calls on inhalants every year, but in 2018 it rose to 75, in 2019 to 96 and in 2020 to 107.
Around half of the calls concerned children younger than 11, and another 20 per cent were aged 12-18.
The median age of people who died due to inhalants is 23 and about 70 per cent are male.