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This Update: Thinking more about youth in Mexico
Next Week: In YOUR community!

This week Sylvia shared the opinions of some youth from Mexico and Latin America about what should be done about homeless youth and drugs. We want to hear more of your opinions to make sure we’re all being as effective as possible.

Today we’ll repeat last update’s information about how to try to keep shoe glue, the number one abused substance by homeless youth in Latin America, out of kid’s hands. Then we’ll start to think more about how to affect change in our own communties.

Go to Casa Alianza's website to learn more about their organization.
Casa Alianza logo

For a more detailed explanation of the service philosophy behind The Odyssey treks, click here.

Things You Can Do

Casa Alianza, the organization for homeless youth in Mexico, has been trying for a long time now to get an American company, the H.B. Fuller Company, to stop selling a kind of shoe glue that most of the homeless kids are addicted to. They want H.B. Fuller either to switch to a water-based glue (so it doesn't have the dangerous chemicals in it), or to put mustard oil in the glue so kids can't sniff it.

So one thing you can do immediately is either write a letter to H.B. Fuller, or call their free customer service number.

FIRST - Figure out what you want to write or say. BE CLEAR ON YOU THINK THEY SHOULD DO. We are going to give you more information here to help you get started with that part.

Background Information:

In Latin America and other parts of the developing world, the drug of choice among street children is solvent-based shoe glues. These products, produced most commonly in bases of cyclohexane, take away the child's cold and despair. However, they also damage the child's liver, lung, and brain. Sudden death is also possible. Glue also keeps kids stuck in the street.

Once addicted, their personalities change. They become more aggressive. Glue usually destroys any future these kids might have once envisioned for themselves. They become enslaved to the vapors. Meaningful psychosocial rehabilitation of a glue-addicted child is nearly impossible.

It is estimated that of the 40 million street children of Latin America, 70 percent are addicted to glue.

What are the effects of inhalant use?

  • Short term memory loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Limb spasms
  • Brain damage
  • Bone Marrow damage
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Potential sudden death
  • Possible fetal effects similar to fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Intoxication

What is the narcotic solvent base of these glues?
(From Casa Alianza and the New Jersey Department of Health Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet)


Cyclohexane is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor. It is used as a paint remover, as a solvent for lacquers and resins, and in making organic materials like nylon. Exposure to Cyclohexane can cause nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, and drowsiness. Unconsciousness and death may occur at high exposures. It can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. Cyclohexane may affect the liver and kidneys. Cyclohexane is a flammable liquid and a fire hazard. Cyclohexane has not been tested for its ability to cause cancer in animals, nor for its ability to affect reproduction.

H.B. Fuller Company changed the base of their contact cement formulas from a more dangerous chemical, toluene, to cyclohexane in recent years. Though cyclohexane is six times less toxic than toluene, abuse of the solvent still causes irreversible damage and even death. According to Medical Examiner Tim Rohrig, "The difference between toluene and cyclohexane is like the difference between a 357-magnum and a 44-caliber gun." They both can cause great injury, and death.

SECOND - If you're going to call, practice what you'll say on the phone ahead of time, or go ahead and write the letter.

To call, dial 1-888-423-8553.

To write a letter, direct it to the head of the company (the CEO, or Chief Executive Officer): Albert P.L. Stroucken

And then send the letter to:
H.B. Fuller Company World Headquarters 1200 Willow Lake
Boulevard St. Paul, MN 55110-5132

IF YOU MAKE A CALL OR WRITE A LETTER, TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT. Post a message on the Message Board on the Trek page!



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