Teen’s freak death after party game goes wrong
A teenage boy died at a sleepover with mates after inhaling deodorant, his devastated mother has revealed.
But his tragic death is just one of many recently - the tip of a worrying iceberg.
Corinne Mair believes her son Bradley wasn't aware of the serious risk of 'chroming' when he took part in the deadly practice earlier this year.
The 16-year-old was at a sleepover when he suffered a severe allergic reaction to the chemicals in the deodorant and had a heart attack as a result, Ms Mair told A Current Affair.
"Literally for him it was him and his mates made a silly decision and it cost him his life," she said.
"I hadn't heard of it and my family and friends hadn't heard of it so this was definitely a new thing for us."
She believes the boys heard about chroming on social media but hadn't tried it before that fateful night.
"I blame Rexona for my son's death," Ms Mair told the Channel 9 program.
"I mean I know my son had a part to play in what happened that evening but I hold Rexona accountable for my son's death."
While Ms Mair insists her son didn't know the dangers and wasn't a regular 'chromer', which describes the act of huffing a substance in order to experience a high, the practice has been a silent epidemic in communities across Australia for years.
Late last year, a spokesman for Unilver - the company that produces Rexona - acknowledged there had been at least five known deaths in recent years linked to misuse of the deodorant.
"We are aware," the spokesman told ABC Radio in September.
"We believe there has been four (deaths) in Queensland and one in New South Wales. As far as police and community groups go, we have been working to engage, understand the issue and better support them."
Nicholas Kendrick was 17 when his mother found him dead in his bed surrounded by empty cans of Rexona at their home in regional Queensland in 2015.
"I walked in to Nicholas' room and he was blue," Dianne Kendrick told the Daily Mail. "His legs were cold and purple. I tried to wake him up and I just screamed."
She described the practice of chroming as "worse than ice" due to its addictive nature and ease of accessibility.
"It's very accessible, kids just go on the internet and it tells you what to do," she said.
"The kids aren't being told they will have irreversible damage. First time you breathe in, you'll have lung damage and brain damage."
A 14-year-old boy from Geelong in Victoria died in 2016 at a friend's house after inhaling Rexona and suffering a heart attack.
Pheonix Werner was responding to peer pressure when the incident occurred, a relative told the Geelong Advertiser at the time.
"This was not the type of person he wanted to be," she said.
"He didn't want to be involved in the drug scene, he just wanted to fit in. Unfortunately he paid for it with his own life."
Rexona has been identified by police and community service workers as the product most abused by chromers, with some major retailers even stripping it from their shelves.
Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Stewart Reid told the Gold Coast Bulletin that the service was investing resources in community education initiatives to warn young people off the trend.
"If you go around the Coast's transport hubs at night you will find kids with aerosol cans who may not be using it for personal hygiene," he told the newspaper.
"There has been a disturbing trend of young kids, around 12 or 13 especially, who are found huffing with older teenagers who are generally 15 or 16. This is really risky behaviour and it causes all sorts of health problems."
But those on the frontline in communities say more needs to be done to battle the growing problem.
"What we're seeing lately is more and more young people chroming - it's a bit more visible," Mike Carter, a social worker in Logan, south of Brisbane, told ABC Radio.
"You often wonder 'has it been underground all this time?' What I think we're seeing is a lot more people are using inhalants and I think it's a bit of a contagion-cycle effect where a group of young people started using it and then they told their friends, who told their friends and it catches on … it catches fire."
He has encountered youth as young as nine or 10 who were chroming, with most users typically in the early to mid-teens.
"It would be great to have a team of youth drug and alcohol workers who work specifically with inhalants and young people using inhalants and providing more outreach-type support," he said.
Originally published as Teen's freak death from deodorant