Kansas Grad Student Falls Victim to Sodium-Azide Poisoning


A second sodium-azide poisoning case is being reported by a university in as many weeks, as a University of Kansas graduate student arrived for treatment, following Harvard’s late-October announcement that six lab workers drank coffee tainted with the chemical.

The student accidently ingested the toxic substance, while working late in a Malott Hall laboratory Wednesday evening. The student was admitted in critical condition but is now listed as being in good condition, according to a KU Web site used for campus alerts.

As a precaution, the building was temporarily evacuated early Thursday and thoroughly inspected by the KU Office of Environment, Health and Safety. The building has since been reopened for normal operations.

The university sent text and E-mail messages to students, faculty and staff this morning to notify them of the suspected accidental poisoning. Updates will be posted at www.alert.ku.edu.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the student and his family at this time,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

Sodium azide is a common preservative of samples and stock solutions in laboratories and a useful reactant in synthetic lab work. Ingesting it can lead to abnormal breathing, low blood pressure, rapid heart beat, pulmonary edema, breathlessness, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, restlessness, reduced body temperature, red eyes, skin burns, lung injury, convulsions, reduced body pH, respiratory failure, collapse, brain damage, heart damage, and even death.

On Oct. 26, Harvard announced that six lab workers ingested the substance in coffee in late August.

To review the full KU press release,  click here.

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