WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- Justin Earp lost his 14-year old daughter, Ashley, just over a month ago. The Oregon parents thought their middle-schooler was going to a slumber party. Instead, they say, Ashley ended up at a gathering with a much older, where she experimented with booze and huffing helium from a tank.
Earp says, "When it was Ashley's turn, she didn't want to do it, and there were some older guys there who said 'its just helium, it won't hurt you', so she gave in to the peer pressure."
Ashley died after a gas bubble entered her blood stream that blocked blood flow to her brain. Such deaths are rare. But the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) says the problem is that very few people realize it can happen at all. They warn, huffing helium either directly from a tank or even balloons is dangerous. Ashley's parents traveled to Washington, DC for the NIPC press conference to bring this message home.
The coalition worries about the images kids see that portray huffing helium as harmless fun. There are countless videos on YouTube, and even an Internet game aimed at young children that features a helium-huffing giraffe.
Brian Dyak, President of the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. says, "We need to avoid glamorizing inhalant use, be it by celebrities, the characters they play, or the fictional characters tied to cartoons and apps."
Harvey Weiss, Executive Director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition says, "If parents know what to talk about to their children, to say this is dangerous and inhalants are chemicals and poisons, kids with understand."