CLEVELAND -- It's a drug so common we can often forget its consequences.
But caffeine, in concentrated amounts, led to the death of a high school student in LaGrange in May. Now Logan Stiner's family is pushing the federal government to make sure it won't happen again.
"Before May 27, we had never heard of caffeine powder, and now we think about it every day," said his mother, Kate Stiner.
Eighteen-year-old Logan's death was a mystery, even to his parents.
"He was more than a prom king, an athlete and a graduating senior. He was our son," said Kate.
"They said we may never know what happened."
The Lorain County Coroner thought it must have been natural causes, until the family found a small bag of a white powdered substance at home. It was pure caffeine. An autopsy showed Logan had 23 times the normal amount in his system, enough to be deadly.
"No one knows what they are dealing with, they think they are just dealing with caffeine," said Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Control Center. "It's like going to the store to buy firecrackers and they hand you sticks of dynamite."
The powder is gaining popularity for boosting athletic performance, particularly among young men. But poison control centers found caffeine behind at least 30 nationwide cases this year. The side effects range from irregular heartbeat, to seizures. In the two other Ohio cases, both men suffered kidney failure.
"Before you know it, you put a teaspoon into a shake, you put a teaspoon into a drink and you suddenly have 75 or 100 cups of coffee in you before you know it," said Spiller. That amount could be lethal.
Senator Sherrod Brown is pushing the FDA to ban powdered caffeine, which is sold for cheap online and in stores, without regulation and often, warnings.
RELATED: FDA warns against powdered caffeine
The Stiners and their attorney, Brian Balser, formed the Logan Stiner Foundation to raise awareness themselves. Their petition to stop the sale of powered caffeine has almost 5,800 signatures to date.
"Please join us in this fight," said Kate.
The Stiners are taking their fight to Washington D.C. in December, where they'll be meeting directly with FDA officials. Sen. Brown has already sent a letter to the Commissioner. The full text of the letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, as provided by Sen. Brown's office, is below.
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
We are concerned about the continued retail marketing and sale of powdered caffeine. While we appreciate the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) issuance of consumer advice on the dangers of powdered pure caffeine – going so far as to recommend that that consumers avoid these products – the agency must do more to protect American consumers. We urge the FDA to ban the retail sale and marketing of this deadly product.
On May 27, 2014, 18-year old Logan Stiner, died from ingesting too much powdered caffeine. Logan, a senior at Keystone High School in LaGrange, Ohio, was a gifted athlete and a strong student – he had even been named prom king. But because of powdered caffeine, Logan died just three days before his high school graduation. This fall, Logan would have been a freshman at the University of Toledo.
Following Logan's death, the FDA updated its "Safety Alert and Advisories" page to warn consumers about the dangers of powdered pure caffeine. In its consumer advice, the FDA acknowledges the significant health risks associated with powdered caffeine: "Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose … Symptoms of caffeine overdose can include rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. [Emphasis added.] Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity." According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "…dietary intake [of caffeine] should be discouraged for all children."
Yet, these dangerous products remain on the shelves without any sort of regulation, and students, like Logan, continue to purchase them in bulk without any warnings or protections to keep them safe. Given that very small amounts of powdered caffeine can cause severe adverse events including death, it is time for the FDA to use its authority to ban the sale and marketing of this dangerous product. When a "single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee," Americans deserve clarity on the dangers of powdered caffeine, which is still being sold at stores and on the internet, as well as better oversight of this potentially fatal product.
We look forward to working with you to ensure that a ban on the retail sale and marketing of this deadly product is put in place to protect Americans from this dangerous form of caffeine. Thank you in advance for your continued help in protecting the public health of our country.