The tragic final moments of a boy who died from inhaling aerosol deodorant while staying overnight at his friend’s house have been revealed as a doctor admitted any medical efforts to save his life were ‘too late’.
Bradley Hope, 16, was at his friend’s house in Tweed Heads, in northern NSW, on December 7, 2019, when he engaged in a practice known in medical circles as volatile substance abuse (VSM) or ‘chroming’ – the act of deliberately inhalation of vapors from aerosol deodorants.
Just a few hours after inhaling the intoxicating chemicals, Bradley began to attack, with the teenager quickly going into cardiac arrest.
An inquest into his death is being held in Byron Bay Local Court this week, with Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan hearing on Wednesday that it was ‘too late’ to save Bradley’s life, despite his friend and his friend’s mother giving him CPR .
Bradley Hope, 16, (left) from New South Wales, died at an accommodation after trying chrome plating for the first time with an aerosol deodorant can
Queensland Children’s Hospital emergency doctor Daniel Bodnar praised Bradley’s friend and mother for trying to revive him, but admitted their efforts were futile.
Bradley was perceived as ‘normal’, said Dr. Bodnar in court before his friend fell asleep.
But after waking up, his friend saw Bradley having a seizure.
Bradley’s friend and mother immediately called triple zero and started CPR and told emergency services that the friends had collapsed.
“His mother and his friends are to be commended for starting CPR on a loved one,” said Dr. Bodnar in court.
Bradley’s cardiac arrest was “unwitnessed,” leading to a delay in medical treatment, Dr. Bodnar.
A cardiac arrest is called unwitnessed if the patient is found without a pulse and no one was present at the time he collapsed.
Paramedics treated Bradley as they rushed him to hospital, but he presented with agonal breathing – a natural reflex that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and is a sign that a person is close to dying.
A coronial inquest into Bradley’s (pictured) death has heard that his friend and his friend’s mother were ‘too late’ to save him despite calling the emergency services and administering CPR
Dr. Bodnar also provided evidence of the effects of VSM, particularly on how it can disrupt the heart’s rhythm, after treating a number of teenage patients.
“It looks like a bag of worms,” said Dr. Bodnar. “It doesn’t have time to fill.”
Dr. Bodnar told the court that parents and children should receive education about the risks of inhaling aerosol deodorants and the life-saving actions that could save a person’s life.
“There should be no fear of seeking help because you get into trouble,” said Dr. Bodnar.
‘I think it’s under-recognised by the public in terms of risks and harms. Like the discussions you would have with drugs and alcohol, this should be discussed as well.
‘I think CPR should be compulsory in schools, and as a father of four girls, I think it should start at the age of 12.’
Corinne Mair, Bradley’s mother, has called on aerosol deodorant companies to better educate their customers by placing warning signs about chrome plating on their products.
“They had seen it on social media or been exposed to it somewhere, so I think one of the kids had a can and they inhaled it,” Mair told A Current Affair.
‘I blame them [the deodorant company] for my son’s death, I mean, I know my son had a part to play in what happened that night, but I hold them responsible for my son’s death.
‘They have actually even publicly acknowledged that their product has been linked to five deaths, Bradley now becoming the sixth.’
Bradley’s mother Corinne Mair (pictured) has openly blamed chroming for her son’s death and has called on companies to better educate their customers
The court heard that Bradley had been involved in chroming for about a year before his death and did it every weekend.
Counsel assisting coroner Emma Sullivan told the court Bradley was ‘not a heavy user by any means’.
Ms Sullivan said it was the first investigation into aerosol propellant deaths in NSW, despite a number of other teenagers dying from chroming.
She told the court that since 2009, 13 deaths in Australia have been linked to inhalation of aerosol deodorants, but the true extent of the ‘complex’ and ‘global’ problem was difficult to assess.
Ms Sullivan cited a 2017 Australian Secondary Student Alcohol and Drug Survey which found 13 per cent had tried inhalants – with the practice prevalent between the ages of 12-15.
From 2010 to 2017, the number of emergency calls for inhalers was stable at 50-60 per year, but in 2018 it increased to 75, in 2019 to 96 and in 2020 to 107.
About half of the calls involved children under the age of 11, and another 20 percent were under the age of 19.
Last year, Coles and Woolworths began locking their deodorant containers behind cages, cupboards and behind service tables in a bid to stop inhalant and drug abuse.
Woolworths supermarket store director Jeanette Fenske told the court the company became aware of the chrome problem in 2014 and implemented measures to try to curb the practice.
She said aerosol deodorants from identified hot spots in Queensland and the Northern Territory were removed and replaced with roll-on products, while other outlets installed locked cabinets with reinforced glass.
“We really want to help solve this difficult problem,” Ms. Fenske said.
The coroner’s inquest into Bradley’s death continues.