New Delhi, Sept. 19: The Union health ministry has banned the sale of nail polish removers, ink erasers and other intoxicating inhalants in bottles amid concerns that children and adolescents across the country are using them to get high.
The health ministry said today that such fluids could now be sold only in pen-like containers that allow only limited release of the chemicals. It said all such pen-like devices should also display mandatory warnings about the health effects of inhaling the chemicals.
“This order will be an important step to curb the abuse of intoxicating inhalants,” said Anju Dhawan, associate professor of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, who has documented their use among children and adolescents.
Ink eraser fluids, nail polish removers, glues, spray paints and paint thinners are among substances containing chemicals that can affect the central nervous system, that can make individuals experience euphoria, lightheadedness, and disinhibition.
“They are addictive — it’s just a form of substance abuse that can have chronic health effects,” said Sonali Jhanjee, a psychiatrist at the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, AIIMS, Ghaziabad, a suburb east of the capital.
A document Jhanjee has prepared for the NDDTC says chronic abusers of inhalants can experience tremors, uncontrollable shaking, slurred speech and, in extreme cases, muscle wasting, damage to nerves and paralysis.
The health ministry said all state and Union territory governments and central ministries and departments have been asked to take necessary action to enforce the measures against the intoxicating inhalants contained in a notification issued in July this year.
The ministry has asked states and Union territories to sensitise industries manufacturing such products as well as distributors, traders, and retail outlets selling them about the new rules. “Toluene is the main chemical in some of these intoxicating inhalants,” Dhawan said.
Research by a team of scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US about a decade ago had shown that toluene present in such inhalants affects the same regions in the brain as cocaine and other substances of abuse.