A Team Philippines campaign against glue sniffing

Solvent abuse or ‘glue sniffing’ is often the only escape route from hunger and despair for millions of street children as it provides short term relief to hunger and pain. However, it poses long term chronic health problems and puts lives in danger.

SCWC is backing efforts by our Philippine partner organisation, ASCF, to lobby worldwide for a law requiring manufacturers to add mustard to glue so that it is unpalatable to inhale. ASCF’s Craig Burrows wants glue to be treated like raw alcohol: the law requires menthol to be added to it to prevent abuse of a cheap, neat alcoholic drink.

Sadly, street children the world over abuse solvents – and the inhalant most commonly used is the glue for mending shoes. Like nail varnishes, lacquers, thinners and other solvents, this glue contains toluene, a highly addictive substance that shuts down the brain’s receptors to hunger pains and other unpleasant physical sensations, as well as blocking emotions. Sniffing glue can lead to severe health problems and even death while getting hold of it often traps children in a cycle of crime and prostitution as they depend on adult gang-masters or pimps for their supply.

So why don’t glue manufacturers already add mustard to glue? Past efforts to order manufacturers to make glue essentially “unsniffable” have been scuppered by corporate lobbying or indifference. In countries where a law has been passed to add mustard to glue, solvent abuse has dramatically reduced. For the companies, though, this has also reduced sales – and the corporations have lobbied for their profits over child welfare. In 2009, the Philippines did pass a law mandating that mustard be added to glue to prevent direct inhalation, but this hasn’t been enforced, and questions remain about the effects of some other additives.

Now Craig Burrows (MBE) wants to gather support for a new campaign aimed at forcing companies to act with social responsibility in the production of glue.

He says: “More than 50 million street children worldwide are addicted to glue and the refusal to add mustard to stop it being abused is tantamount to corporate child abuse since these children often end up in prostitution and crime. One simple step could save millions of children. What’s stopping us?”

By Jo Griffin with thanks to Craig Burrows MBE.

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