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WHEATON, Ill. (AP) -- Nitrous oxide -- laughing gas -- could be to blame for

the deaths of three people in three months, said a DuPage County official who

warned people Friday not to misuse the gas.

Nitrous oxide is an anesthetic often used by dentists. It also is used as a

propellent for some food products such as whipped cream. When inhaled, it

creates a brief feeling of euphoria and hilarity.

Devan J. Bell, 19, of Wheaton was found dead June 28. There was no clear

cause of death but that Bell did have a history of seizures, and nitrous oxide

containers were found in the house where he was staying, said DuPage County

Coroner Richard R. Ballinger.

Jamie M. Cardi, 16, of Glen Ellyn was killed in an car crash July 14. A

passenger testified Cardi inhaled nitrous oxide from a balloon just before the

crash.

And Michael W. Counsell, 21, of Villa Park, described as an excellent

swimmer, drowned in a swimming pool during a party in Lombard July 29. Nitrous

oxide was being sold at the party, authorities said.

DuPage County usually sees one nitrous oxide poisoning every two to three

years, Ballinger said.

"To have three deaths in this short period of time is unconscionable," he

said. "That the means the usage out here in the general public is very large."

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