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Street Children Live in Glue-Sniffing Haze

Weissert, W. (2000, July 23). Street Children Live in Glue-Sniffing Haze.The Boston Sunday Globe, p. A16.

OVERVIEW

Cesar Ulices Padilla comforts himself to sleep by sniffing from a baby-food jar. Like almost all of the 1,500 street children in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, he is addicted to glue. Many Latin American street children sniff glue, but it is most prevalent in Honduras, where Hurricane Mitch recently killed 11,000 and rendered 1.5 million homeless.

An admitted escape from the pain and hunger and fear of their daily lives, glue’s aroma shocks the body’s nervous system, leaving the senses useless for eight hours. The fumes also irreversibly damage the brain, lungs, and kidneys. Even with the terrifying health risks, Padilla, 18, says, “ ‘That’s why we live now. We live for the glue.’ ” The article mentions two children who starved to death after choosing to spend all of their money on jars of glue (instead of food), for sniffing highs four times each day. Glue is said to be stronger than marijuana and cocaine, leaving many children “all but oblivious to the world around them, building an independent rhythm fueled by glue.”

Consider Carlos Enrique, a 10-year-old. His breath smells of the liquid adhesive. His lips are yellow, stained from hundreds of dips in glue. He begs for money by opening cab doors for passengers. Each time he sniffs from a bag filled with nodules of gummy glue, he dances to make-believe music: “ ‘It makes me feel like I am a superman, like I am better than anyone.’ ”

To eat, many street children combat dogs, rats, and vultures for bites of rotting leftovers in rotting trash bins. Marvin, 13, lives next to a hill of cow carcasses. Unable to stand up straight for more than a few seconds, he says, “ ‘I don’t remember things anymore.’ ”

To combat this social epidemic, institutions have passed laws and changed business practices. One law was passed in 1996 to allow only licensed industrial distributors to sell glue. Unfortunately, relentness demand has propelled an illegal industry of shadowy vendors. Dealers purchase gallons of it for $35 each. They liquify it with paint thinner and bleach and it is “sloshed into baby food jars that fetch about 67 cents each.” Closing down these “glue dens” is nearly impossible, as they are commonplace. In another legal attempt to deter the habit, a law was passed in the mid-1990s to require “glue manufacturers to include a mustard compound that induces immediate vomiting and makes the glue impossible to inhale.” Sadly, this law is unenforced. One Fortune 500 company that makes industrial-grade adhesives, H.B. Fuller Co., recently stopped over-the-counter selling of solvent-based adhesives in Latin America. Still, child advocacy leaders maintain that the addiction continues.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. How do you respond to this article? Which story or fact compels you? Why?
  2. Is this article surprising to you? Explain.
  3. Regardless of where you live, is sniffing, or inhaling, a habit of young people around you? Why do you think that young people choose to do this?
  4. Have you ever wanted to escape from things happening in your life? What do you do?
  5. What can be done to help these young people?

IMPLICATIONS

  1. This is a tragic reality. It is hard to read about and accept.
  2. Young people everywhere feel pain. In places like Honduras, hope may seem lost. There must be ways to return hope to the land and justice to those who are robbing young children of it.
  3. The devastated economy of the country propels the epidemic. It must be strengthened in order to weaken the lure to addiction.
  4. There are so many types of addiction. It is a global issue. It is battled by people in every town, city, state, region, country, and continent. Youth workers carry a heavy burden and a worthy responsibility to help mend broken lives.

Dean Borgman cCYS