YOUNG people are being warned over the dangers of nitrous oxide inhalation - so-called ‘laughing gas’ - after hundreds of empty cannisters were found in open spaces across the Worcester during lockdown.

The small containers are legal to buy, used as a way for cyclists to inflate their tyres quickly. But in the wrong hands, a ‘high’ can be achieved, sometimes aided by filling a balloon with the dangerous gas to ease administration.

Councillor Lynn Denham, vice chair of the city council’s communities committee, and a trained pharmacist, said: “It is very dangerous to inhale nitrous oxide directly from the canister. You risk falling unconscious or suffocating from the lack of oxygen - people have died this way.

“I would urge parents to talk to teenagers about the dangers of laughing gas. Many are not aware of the risks and regard this as harmless fun.”

The gas is also used for dental surgery to ease pain and anxiety, giving a feeling of detachment.

Cllr Denham added: “We’re also calling on businesses which supply nitrous oxide for legitimate purposes to make stringent checks before selling it to anyone.

“Unfortunately this product is very easy to obtain and much more needs to be done to address this problem."

Last month, we reported that city councillor Richard Udall had raised concerns after 30 canisters were spotted in Worcester in just one week - with some found in a children’s play area in St John’s.

Cllr Udall, who represents St John’s ward, said at the time: “There are views that laughing gas is harmless but it’s definitely not. It causes brain damage and leads to other serious problems. It’s a dangerous substance. I want to urge people not to play Russian Roulette with it.

“During lockdown people are using it more openly and it seems to be more available.”

Worcester City Council’s community safety team has been proactively engaging with young adults gathering in parks and have talked to around 130 people about this issue in recent weeks.

West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, said: “I have heard from a number of people that they are becoming concerned about nitrous oxide and the number of canisters being found - it is something that is not only affecting Worcester, but the whole of West Mercia.

“Whilst there is a limit to what enforcement can do, this is still an issue of anti-social behaviour and the health of young people. We need to be doing more, which is why I would like to work with partners to find ways to reduce the problem, and ensure those buying the canisters aren’t able to do so as easily as they are now. Collectively, we have the power to make a difference and see that this doesn’t become a greater problem.”

There is no immediate danger to the public from discarded canisters, experts say.

Chief Inspector Gareth Morgan from West Mercia Police said: “We have recently introduced reporting of crime and ASB on our website We would encourage anyone to use this platform to report any issues in the local community to us.”

Anyone who finds discarded cannisters in Worcester’s parks and open spaces, can report online at: