Laughing gas causing more health problems in NL, A'dam takes action

Woman selling laughing gas in Amsterdam
Woman selling laughing gas in AmsterdamPhoto: Phototraveller/DepositPhotos

The number of reports of health problems caused by laughing gas is increasing rapidly in the Netherlands, according to figures from the national poisoning information center NVIC. The center calls this a "worrying development". Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema is looking into measures to curb the sale of laughing gas on the city streets.

According to the NVIC, there were 13 reports of health problems caused by laughing gas in 2015. That number increased to 54 last year. And in the first half of this year, the center already received 67 reports. The center noticed that laughing gas is more frequently being used for longer periods and in extreme quantities. According to the NVIC, there are cases of people using over 50 balloons or cartridges over two or three days. 

Common health issues include nausea, headache and dizziness, but also chest pain, impaired vision, confusion and anxiety. Various users suffered from tingling or numbness in their arms or legs. According to the NVIC, this may indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can arise from excessive laughing gas use.

Mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam wants to tackle the sale of laughing gas in her city. According to Het Parool, cargo bikes selling laughing gas to the partying public is an increasingly common occurrence in the capital. "We want to act against this form of laughing gas sale", a spokesperson for the mayor said to the newspaper. 

As the sale of laughing gas is not illegal, it is difficult for the police and other authorities to act against it. Halsema and other mayors are therefore calling on the government to add laughing gas to the Medicines Act, so it can no longer be sold freely. She is also investigating whether the use of laughing gas can be banned through the city's general local regulation. 

Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam is one of the mayors calling on the government to act against the increased use of laughing gas as a party drug. He recently banned the sale of laughing gas at events and on and around Nesselande beach in the city. 

Earlier this year burn centers in the Netherlands raised concerns about the use of laughing gas causing serious injuries. The intoxication caused by laughing gas increases the pain threshold, which prevents users from noticing that the ice cold tank is burning their legs or hands. "A day later they only find out that they have suffered serious burns", Ymke Lucas, burn doctor at the Maasstad Hospital in Rotterdam, said to NOS in April.

Minster Ferdinand Grappehaus of Justice and Security previously announced that he is considering a national ban on the recreational use of laughing gas. "Young people do not realize how life-threatening, how deadly the cocktail of alcohol and laughing gas or other drugs is", he said, according to NOS.