POLICE have issued a warning after thieves smashed their way into a hospital and snatched containers of “laughing gas”.
Five canisters of nitrous oxide were stolen when Washington Spire Hospital’s storage room was raided.
The theft has led to stark warnings about the dangers of inhaling the potentially fatal gas.
The stolen canisters contain undiluted nitrous oxide, which can be deadly if inhaled in its current form.
And the gas, which is used as an anaesthetic in operations, is flammable when exposed to a naked flame or extreme heat.
Police have launched an investigation into yesterday morning’s theft and are urging anyone who is offered nitrous oxide to contact them.
Acting Neighbourhood Inspector Alan Pitchford, who covers Washington, said: “The gas has a similar effect to helium and is often referred to as a laughing gas.
“However, in its current concentration it is incredibly dangerous, if it’s inhaled it has the potential to suffocate the user.
“It is also a flammable source if it’s exposed to a naked flame or extreme heat conditions.
“We believe the canisters may be marked with as N20 and would urge anyone who has information about where they are to contact police immediately.”
Silvie Adams, hospital director, added: “We are very concerned about this theft.
“It is important that people are made aware of the potential dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide, which is used in hospitals as a very carefully controlled anaesthetic during surgical procedures.
“The canisters were stolen from a securely locked storage area. We take security at the hospital very seriously and are working closely with the police to identify the culprits.”
The door has now been fixed and extra reinforcement installed.
The theft took place yesterday at about 9.45am.
Anyone with any information should contact Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 ext 69191 or alternatively Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.