UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Mysterious Poisoning

Keywords: sodium azide (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/29/2009 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 8/21/2019)
Click here to contact Fermin Barrueto, MD

 Toxicology Expert: Poisoning Of Harvard University Scientists "No Accident"

  • 6 scientists in a Boston area lab drank coffee that was laced with sodium azide
  • Presented with hypotension, nausea and vomiting - one had a syncopal episode
  • Sodium Azide is a chemical compound (NaN3) that is used as a preservative at very low concentrations but in higher concentrations can be lethal. It is even found in the propellant that is found in automobile airbag mechanisms
  • It acts similiar to cyanide where it inhibits cytochrome oxidase and presents like a cyanide poisoning.
  • No antidote, cyanide antidote kit will not work