Posted On: October 30, 2009 by Steven J. Malman

Work Injury: Harvard Researchers Hospitalized Due to Poisoned Coffee

Six Harvard University researchers were hospitalized in August after drinking coffee that was poisoned. The coffee, which came from a coffee machine in a campus building, had sodium azide in it.

The poisoned researchers, consisting of Harvard Medical School students and scientists, experienced various side effects after drinking the coffee, including low blood pressure, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and fainting. All six victims were treated at Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center.

Sodium azide, commonly used in labs as a preservative, is listed as a “potentially deadly chemical" by the federal government. All of the victims work in the medical school’s pathology department where they test mice to determine the way the immune system and diseases interact.

Harvard University is installing more security cameras and adding additional security to prevent this kind of incident from happening again. Police and health officials are trying to figure out how the coffee was poisoned. Was it a work accident or attempted murder?

Sodium Azide
According to Mallinckrodt Baker, a chemical company, sodium azide is highly toxic. 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 death.

Poisoning at Harvard, Boston Herald, October 25, 2009
Sodium Azide, Mallinckrodt Baker

Related Web Resources:
Facts About Sodium Azide, CDC

Illinois Workers' Compensation Act

Workers’ Compensation
If you became ill because you were exposed to a toxic, hazardous, or poisonous substance on the job, you may have grounds for filling an Illinois workers’ compensation claim for work injury benefits. If another party contributed to causing your work illness or injury, you may have grounds for filing an Illinois injury lawsuit.

Contact our Chicago workers’ compensation law firm today.

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