High Off Exhaust Fumes: The Strange Reason Some People Are Stealing Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converter theft is an unfortunately common occurrence. With valuable bits of metal and material, these car parts can fetch high prices in scrap. But other than selling them to make a quick buck, catalytic converters have another appeal over in Africa. By grinding up some of the components, you can make a whole new drug out of catalytic converters.

Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter | Reuter Raymond/Sygma via Getty Images

Getting high off catalytic converter parts is a growing problem in Africa

If you have basic knowledge of how cars work, then you’ll know catalytic converters are used to clean up the emissions of a car. Essentially, the exhaust fumes from your engine flow into the catalytic converter and through a filter. That filter, which looks like a honeycomb, collects carbon. And while that’s very good for the planet, it’s not good for humans.

Many people die from CO2 poisoning, it’s the reason there are CO2 monitors for your home. Not only that, but it can cause cancer and other long-term illnesses. So before I continue with describing the sensation of snorting car parts, we do not condone the use of any hard substances. Don’t snort car parts, you’re not an engine.

Now, the first sign of CO2 poisoning is often feeling tired, since the gas lulls your body to sleep. The effects of grinding up the filter and snorting it are, apparently, similar. In this Driving report, users of the brown dust can stand motionless for hours, and sleep for days. It’s a relaxation drug, rather than other substances that boost one’s adrenaline.

In Africa, the drug is called “bombe,” which translates to powerful. And the authorities there are calling this catalytic converter drug a nationwide problem.

How officials are controlling the bombe issue

Cars Driving On Street In Africa
Cars Driving On Street In Africa | Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said “this social phenomenon calls for collective responsibility by the whole nation.” And so far, authoritative actions have been taken. Nearly 100 alleged dealers of bombe were arrested last August, though you don’t exactly need a dealer to be able to grind up catalytic converters. All you need is a car.

Dandy Yela Y’Olemba, country director of the World Federation against Drugs, explained that “It’s not a substance made for us to consume. Are we engines or are we humans?” And while grinding up the filter does get one high, the substance is often combined with sleeping pills to increase the effect. Others may smoke it with tobacco, but again, little is known of the long-term effects. Though, one shouldn’t have to assume that snorting car parts is bad for you.

Drugs and cars shouldn’t mix. And not only does that mean you shouldn’t be doing exhaust-created drugs, but you shouldn’t be doing drugs in your car either.

The effects of driving while on drugs

A blue light on top of a police car, potentially taking car of illegal activity.
The blue light of a police car | Getty Images

Spoiler alert: drugged driving is just as much of a crime as drunk driving. Driving while impaired leads to poor judgment and expensive accidents that’ll be on your permanent record. So whether recreational marijuana is legal in your state or not, stay off the road.

And keep your catalytic converter strapped to your car. In fact, you should take precautions to protect catalytic converters, especially considering there’s a bit of a car part shortage. Replacing it would likely cost more than any thief would be able to sell it for. In short, just be safe, and say no to drugs.

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