Poison control centers across the U.S. reported a 253 percent increase in self-poisoning with nitrites and nitrates and a 166 percent increase in fatalities in 2021 in comparison to 2018. This is at the same time there is increased accessibility of sodium nitrite through online vendors and recommendations frequently shared in online communities that it can be used as an effective method of suicide.
Sodium nitrite is a form of salt and commonly used as a food preservative. Consuming large quantities of sodium nitrite can cause methemoglobinemia, which is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition where the amount of oxygen carried by the blood is greatly reduced. The high mortality rate and toxicity of sodium nitrite is also of significant concern. Since 2018, nearly 15 percent of nitrites and nitrates self-poisoning cases have resulted in death, with 88 percent of individuals requiring management in a health-care facility.
Poison centers offer the following precautions to prevent sodium nitrite poisoning and advice on what to do in the event of an exposure:
1. Call 911 immediately if an individual is unconscious, unable to breathe or seizing.
Call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) or visit PoisonHelp.org
if you suspect someone has been exposed to sodium nitrite or for more information about poisoning prevention.
3. If you or a loved one are in emotional distress or crisis, call
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
4. Avoid keeping large quantities of sodium nitrite containing products in the home.
5. Store sodium nitrite containing products in a locked cabinet or up and out of reach of children.
Four ways to prepare, prevent, and protect against poisoning:
1. Text POISON to 797979 to save the Poison Help Hotline as a contact in your mobile phone.
2. Save the Poison Help Hotline number, 1-800-222-1222, into your mobile phone.
3. Display the Poison Help Hotline contact number throughout your home.
4. Get Info:
· Web: www.aapcc.org
· Twitter: https://twitter.com/AAPCC
· Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aapcc
For National Poison Data or Information, Contact:
Director, Public Education & Communications