STUNNED residents have spoken of their shock after watching “hundreds” of school children getting high on gas at a fun fair.

Visitors to the fun fair in Burnham’s Riverside Park said they were astonished to see droves of youngsters inhaling legal but dangerous nitrous oxide.

The colourless gas can give people a “high” when inhaled but can be dangerous.

It is most commonly sold to catering companies for whipped cream.

One Burnham resident, who attended the fair but does not wish to be named, said: “I was walking around the fair with my other half and 10-year-old daughter and was at the south end of the field.

“We saw two hundred plus kids aged between 12 and 15 doing balloons and gas cannisters.

“To see something so widespread in kids of that age and in front of everybody without a care – it’s just mad.

“These kids have obviously found a loophole and are buying them off the internet.

“The whole evening, I didn’t see a single policeman at all which I find amazing. I know it’s a family affair but there’s been fights there in the past.

“This year more than ever there were beer bottles and alcohol littered everywhere and thousands of canisters thrown everywhere.

“This young society is drug-filled. Why do these kids need to do it? Do they copy each other? Are they suffering in their family life? There’s so many of them doing it that they can’t all be depressed, looking for a high to take their thoughts away.”

Steven’s Funfair, supported by Maldon District Council, is an annual event which coincides with Burnham Carnival.

It ran from last Thursday to Sunday.

The angry dad added: “The kids were left unattended. None of their parents were there, and it’s just a sorry state of affairs.

“I probably won’t go next year and lots of other people won’t go which is a shame for the town and a shame for the organisers.”

Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas or “balloons”, and is also used for pain relief during dentistry and childbirth.

It can be bought legally but it is illegal to supply it for psychoactive purposes.

According to drug education site Talk to Frank, some have died from the gas after falling unconscious and suffocating from the lack of oxygen.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are aware of concerns about the use of nitrous oxide at the Burnham fair on Sunday.

“Officers recovered several canisters used for this substance, known colloquially as laughing gas, from the fairground over the weekend.

“While the substance is not illegal to take, it is illegal for it to be supplied or sold.

“Officers in our community policing teams are aware of the increase in anti-social behaviour that this substance can bring, and patrol known hotspots to prevent any disorder or danger towards members of the public or users.

“Where crimes are taking place, our officers will take action.”