Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2009 11:13:22 -0400
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Subject: Harvard Tightening Security After 6 Poisoned Students,
Researchers Ingest Lethal Chemical
Comments: To: SAFETY

Harvard Tightening Security After 6 Poisoned Students, Researchers  
Ingest Lethal Chemical

BOSTON -- Harvard University Medical School will increase security and  

install new video cameras at its laboratories this week as police work  

to determine whether six people were intentionally poisoned at a  
research building.

The scientists and students fell ill on Aug. 26 after consuming a  
potentially lethal chemical that was present in their coffee,  
according to an internal memo sent to medical school students on Friday.

All six people had used a single-serve coffee machine near their  
pathology lab at Harvard=92s New Research Building to prepare the  
coffee, and all later reported dizziness and low blood pressure.

Testing revealed the presence of sodium azide, a common preservative,  

in the coffee, the memo said. Sodium azide is an odorless white solid,  

according to the Centers for Disease Control Web site.

One person became unconscious. All six were taken to Beth Israel  
Deaconess Medical Center for treatment. None suffered long-term  
consequences from the poisoning.

The university said it does not know if the poisoning was deliberate  
or accidental.

=93While we do not yet know how the incident occurred, we have recently  

learned that sodium azide ... was present in the coffee consumed by  
the six employees,=94 the memo reads.

Many workers and students who frequent the building said they had not  

yet heard about the incident.

"I'm actually kind of surprised," one said.

Swallowing the chemical can cause rapid breathing, dizziness and  
nausea, according to the CDC.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the  
Boston Public Health Commission are investigating.

=93We are in the process of installing additional security cameras  
throughout our buildings, and we are strengthening the security  
systems that manage access to the laboratories during both normal  
business hours and off hours,=94 the Harvard memo said.

Copyright 2009 by All rights reserved. This  
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Experts discount =91accident=92 theory in Harvard coffee poisoning
By Adam Smith and Jessica Van Sack

Buzz up!

A leading toxicologist believes the chances are slim that six lab  
workers at Harvard University Medical School were poisoned by accident.

=93An accident? Sodium azide is a poison,=94 said David M. Benjamin, a  

toxicologist and Chestnut Hill-based clinical pharmacologist.  
=93Absolutely not.=94

The Herald reported yesterday that six scientists and students at the  

New Research Building in Boston=92s Longwood Medical area were  
mysteriously poisoned after drinking from a communal, single-serve  
coffee machine on the eighth floor near their pathology lab on Aug.  
26. Seconds later all six reported symptoms including dizziness and  
low blood pressure and were taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical  
Center for treatment.

=93Could it have gotten in the coffee machine inadvertantly? Absolutely  

not,=94 Benjamin said of the compound, an odorless white solid used in  

labs as a preservative. =93It could be considered an attempted murder or 

Harvard did not make the poisoning public until after repeated  
inquiries from the Herald. The university continued to skirt questions  

yesterday, with a spokesman referring inquiries to Harvard police, and  

the police referring questions back to the spokesman.

=93This is crazy,=94 said a Harvard Medical School researcher who did 
want to be identified. =93I don=92t know why it would take two months to 
announce this.=94

Although he is not privy to the investigation, medical school  
spokesman David Cameron said, =93What I know at this point in time is  

that all options and potential avenues for how this could have  
happened are being very thoroughly and intensely investigated.=94

The same substance was used in a string of coffee and tea poisoning  
incidents in Japan a decade ago. In one incident, the chief internist  

of a Kyoto hospital was found guilty of lacing the green tea ingested  

by seven fellow doctors with sodium azide.

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