Huffing products in MN limited under new law proposal

A Minnesota family tragedy could prompt a new law to cut down on access materials for huffing.

FOX 9 introduced the story of Tommy Byers last August, about ten months after he passed away. Tommy’s mother says her life also ended when her son died from huffing 1, 1-difluoroethane — or DFE.

But she’s putting her pain on display in the hopes that nobody else will go through the same kind of suffering.

Tommy Byers had a big personality and a bigger group of friends in the restaurant industry. But the 34-year-old had a secret his parents would only uncover when he died in October 2022.

They found dozens of cans of compressed air scattered all over Tommy’s apartment.

"This is a parent's literally a parent's nightmare," said his mother, Katie O''Meara. "I wake up to this. I go to bed with this day after day, 24/7, nightmare for the rest of my life."

The aerosol duster product is designed for cleaning computers, but it contains DFE, which is toxic and can also provide a brief high.

Rep. Heather Edelson wants to make it harder to get.

"I would say one life is too many," said Rep. Edelson (DFL-Edina). "But we're not talking about one life. We're talking about many."

The bill would force retailers to treat aerosol dusters similarly to Sudafed, while using a warning label on half the can and keeping the product behind the counter.

They could only sell it to people 21 and up and wouldn’t be allowed to sell more than three a day to a single person.

A similar bill failed in 2019, but Tommy’s mother says it’s her new life’s mission to get this one through.

"I can’t save Tommy now but I can help save other people’s children," O'Meara said. "We must pass this law."

The Minnesota Retail Association is neutral on the bill, but the Household Commercial Products Association opposes the restrictions.

If you have additional questions or know someone who is struggling with an addiction to products containing DFE, you may contact the Minnesota Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 or online at poison control's website here.