The United States is among many countries that allow the chemical compound to be sold as a food preservative, and the federal Food and Drug Administration regulates its use for this purpose.
There is no systematic tracking of suicides involving the compound, but The Times has identified dozens of people who have used it since 2018 in the US, UK, Italy, Canada and Australia. More than 300 members of the suicide website had announced their intention to use the compound to commit suicide.
A study of 47 cases of preservative poisoning reported to the National Poison Data System over a five-year period found that suicide attempts with it had increased since 2017. A 2020 article in The Journal of Emergency Medicine reported warned that because the compound “is readily available through online vendors and is promoted through various suicide forums,” emergency rooms may see more patients who have used it.
Dr. Kyle Pires, a resident emergency physician at Yale University Hospital who treated a 28-year-old woman who purchased the compound on Amazon, wrote in the journal Clinical Toxicology about her death and the recent rise in suicides by this method. The article, published last May, said policymakers should be aware of the preservative’s use in suicides and encouraged emergency rooms to stockpile doses of an antidote, methylene blue, which can prevent death if given early.
In an interview, Dr Pires said companies should be able to buy the preservative, but sales to individuals should be banned.
“There’s an argument that it’s a slippery slope to restrict sales of something that’s legal just because some people are using it to kill themselves,” Dr Pires said. But, he added, “this is a cost-benefit analysis of a small number of hobbyists using this chemical to cure meat at home versus this growing number of young people, including including teenagers, who use it to kill themselves. To me, that’s an easy math.
In the UK, coroners have been highlighting suicides involving online purchases of the Tory for almost two years and are calling on the government to act. An intergovernmental group is working with companies – including manufacturers and online suppliers to the Conservative – to reduce access and end some sales to individuals, according to a spokeswoman for the government’s Department of Health and Social Care . The UK already requires sellers to notify law enforcement officials of any suspicious purchases of the compound, although it is unclear how often such reports are made.