TULSA - With the sun beaming down, air conditioning units are working extra hard. To keep us cool, the units must stay cool. But some air conditioning technicians are noticing a chemical that makes that happen, freon, is running low or out in some cases.
"Our first suspicion is that the system has a freon leak and so we're looking for a leak. When we come up empty handed and can't find a leak, but we find that the caps have been taken off, that's where we have to go, is that there's something happening when we're not there," said Mike Rampey, the President of Air Assurance.
It's what may be happening that's so concerning, "Our first suspicion is that someone has been sniffing the freon," said Rampey.
Police say teens are huffing the freon, and it often happens right out of the unit itself.
"It's normally in a hidden place, behind a building, near a house, somewhere, where they're not going to be noticed," said Rampey.
It can be deadly. Tulsa Police say earlier this year, a teenager died from huffing freon.
"It's a very dangerous situation for individuals to do something like this because the individual that I'm speaking of, literally, he was there for several hours without anyone knowing that he had died," said Officer Leland Ashley with the Tulsa Police Department.
It's a frightening trend that's sweeping across the country, and even online. One fed up homeowner even took to YouTube to share surveillance video of vandals stealing freon three times in the same day.
"Nine times out of ten, it's usually teenagers that will get involved with the huffing before they maybe go on with the harder drugs, and a lot times they think, 'Oh this is easy. It's not going to cost me anything, and I get a high off of it,'" said Officer Ashley.
In fact, you can even find disturbing clips of what appears to be people huffing freon online, and it can all start with your AC unit.
Air Assurance says there is a solution though. You can put a cap on the unit so no one can tamper with the freon supply.
"Our customer systems, that have a special tool, these people are not going to have this tool to get these caps off," said Rampey.
Rampey says you can get one of the caps from Air Assurance or other companies that service your AC unit.
Police also say you should talk to your teens and protect your AC unit by keeping it under lock and key.
"If you have a chain link fence or a wood fence maybe put a lock on your gate so it doesn't allow easy access," said Ashley.
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