Trading Standards campaign warns of DNP dangers
Trading Standards in Buckinghamshire are warning about the dangers of using the illegal drug 2.4 Dinitrophenol for weight reduction and body building in an autumn campaign aimed at students.
Beer mats with the message Would you play Russian Roulette with DNP? are being given to students and student union bars, targeting the age group officers say is most at risk.
The message will be reinforced through social media.
And Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards officers are visiting universities and colleges throughout both counties to raise awareness and to reinforce the message by chatting to students and making them aware of the dangers of consuming 2.4 Dinitrophenol, also known as DNP.
It is thought to be used to help lose weight as part of fat-burning body-building programmes, but in the long-term it can damage the heart and nervous system.
Recent figures published in the Government's Health Protection Report indicate that more than 30 complex cases in the United Kingdom were referred to the National Poisons Information Services between January and September this year, five of which were fatal.
The Buckinghamshire campaign comes in the wake of a rise in the number of deaths nationally from DNP poisoning in the past five years from zero in 2011.
Among them was 28-year-old Sean Cleathero, from High Wycombe, who died in hospital after taking DNP powder in a local gym in October 2012, and Chesham student Sarah Houston who died a month earlier from a DNP dose while studying at Leeds University.
The campaign also follows the death of student Sarmad Alladin in 2013 from a DNP dose. Sarmad, who attended Surrey's specialist University for the Creative Arts, was a fitness enthusiast.
Trading Standards Officer Donna Ward, leading the campaign, said the sale and supply of DNP for consumption was illegal. 'It's most definitely unsafe for human consumption, yet it is clear from the figures provided that it's being sold illegally, mainly online, as an aid to help with weight loss,' she said.
'Our aim is to reach the young people - many of them students - who are most at risk of being tempted to use DNP, with the message that this is a potential killer!'
To add insult to injury, says Donna, Trading Standards Officers are investigating suspicions that some illegal sellers are scammers, insisting buyers pay by bank or cash transfer, and even payment on delivery.
Sean Cleathero’s mother, Sharon Ayres, welcomed the Trading Standards campaign and said she hoped the difference it made would save lives.
‘I do hope this makes people think twice before taking DNP,’ said Sharon. 'I’m gobsmacked that anyone has the morals to sell what is really a poison for human consumption. It’s only when someone dies that we sit up and take notice of the dangers of DNP, and I sincerely hope this campaign makes people much more aware that this is a big deal – it’s about people’s lives.’
Martin Phillips, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, said: 'Five deaths this year from taking these drugs are five too many. I want to make sure those at risk of being sucked into this illegal trade are well aware of the dangers, and warned off.'
IN THE PICTURE
DNP beer mat campaign: Donna Ward with Trading Standards volunteer Community Champion Naima-mae Baxxhus
Taking small amounts over a long period can result in long term side effects including cataracts, skin lesions and damage to the heart and nervous system. The drug has also been linked with cancer and an increased risk of birth defects in children.
The warning signs of DNP poisoning include;- Hot dry skin, excessive thirst, sweating, abnormally fast heartbeat and rapid breathing. If DNP poisoning is suspected it is advisable to seek immediate help by calling 999.