Amazon is currently in the midst of a lawsuit. The families of two teenage boys, who purchased a fatal chemical on the company’s website and used it to take their own lives, are suing the company, accusing it of selling suicide kits.
The parents of 16-year-old Kristin Jonson of Ohio and 17-year-old Ethan McCarthy of West Virginia said the retailer helped two minors die by selling sodium nitrite. This food preservative is lethal in high purity.
A lawsuit filed in California state court in September accused Amazon of suggesting that consumers who purchased the chemicals also purchase scales to measure appropriate doses, anti-emetic drugs, and a copy of an assisted suicide manual.
“Amazon is selling a product that is deadly as cyanide,” said Carrie Goldberg and Naomi Leeds, two attorneys for the families from the company C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, in a statement.
“This is different from them selling rope, knives, or other implements that can be used for death because there is no household use for [sodium nitrite] at the level of purity (98-99%) it sells it,” they added.
Sodium nitrite is typically used in low concentrations for curing meats such as bacon, ham, and hot dogs. However, people who take abnormally high levels of the substance can experience difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and worse, death.
Some sodium nitrites sold on Amazon are so pure that ingesting just one teaspoon is nearly fatal, according to Goldberg.
Earlier this year, another lawsuit from the same Washington state law firm alleges Amazon sold the drug to two other people, Michael Scoot, 27, and Tyler Muhlmann, 17, who also used it to kill themselves.
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Sodium Nitrite Sale
Releasing a statement, Amazon sent its “deepest condolences” to the families and loved ones of individuals impacted by the suicide and stated that it made customer safety a top priority. In addition, the giant said in an interview with NPR that it demands sellers to abide by all the applicable laws and regulations.
“Sodium nitrite is a legal and widely-available product offered by retailers to preserve foods, such as meats and fish, and for use in laboratories as a reagent. Sodium nitrite is not intended for consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused,” said the spokesperson.
When asked for comment, Loudwolf, the company that made the sodium nitrite the two teenage kids in the California case purchased on Amazon, did not reply. The representatives who handle the lawsuit state that Loudwolf’s sodium nitrite is now unavailable on Amazon.
According to Goldberg and Leeds, there is not a much-known antidote to sodium nitrite that people should know about: an injection of methylene blue. Per the lawsuit, Amazon sold ad space on many sodium nitrite product pages to a methylene blue brand; however, the product listing of Loudwold’s sodium nitrite did not identify the antidote’s existence.
The plaintiffs state that in online suicide forums, posts talk about using sodium nitrite to kill oneself. They added that Amazon has been bombarded with complaints from people cautioning the giant that consumers are using the drug to kill themselves.