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Highly Toxic, Glue and Other Inhalants Are Drugs of Choice From Guatemala to Japan


June 1993

While glue sniffing is devastating poor Guatemalan street children, inhaling glue or other volatile solvents is also the number one substance abuse problem in Japan, according to a recent story in the Miami Herald (Tim Johnson, "Glue Sniffing Enslaves Guatemalan Street Kids: Activists Blame U.S. Manufacturer," Miami Herald, 5/10/93, 1A)

In an odd twist, some have pointed the finger of blame at H.B. Fuller Co., the biggest maker and marketer of glue to Latin America. The American company has been picketed by activists demanding it stop all production of solvent-based glues in Latin America. Critics of the activists note that street children faced with a bleak life of homelessness, hunger, and pain, will use whatever they can to dull their pain. If glue was not available, the children would use gasoline or paint thinner, they note.

In the United States, an estimated 850,000 Americans abused glue or other inhalants in 1992. Inhalant abuse is "the number one substance abuse problem in Japan," Catherine MacIntyre of the Colorado-based International Institute for Inhalant Abuse told the Herald. Glue and other solvents may be the most harmful of all drugs of abuse, resulting in irreversible kidney and brain damage. In poor countries, abuse of solvents by homeless children is almost universal, according to some reports. In Guatemala City, almost all of the city's estimated 5,000 street children are chronic glue sniffers, social workers told the Herald.