NYS Sen. Andrew Gounardes floats sales ban on sodium nitrite tied to youth suicides

New legislation in Albany would ban retailers like Amazon from selling sodium nitrite, a common meat preservative linked to youth suicides across the country.

“It’s basically like the suicide poison of choice,” state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) told The Post Friday.

“There are whole websites – whole corners of the dark web, where people are like: ‘Here’s how you do it. Here’s how you take your life. You have to just go online and order x amount of sodium nitrite, mix it with water and drink it.’”

The bill Gounardes plans to officially introduce Monday would bar both online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores from selling the salt-like substance “without proof of its intended use for institutional or scientific purposes.”

Only people 21 years old and up would be able to purchase sodium nitrite under the bill, which also establishes a right for individuals to sue violators of the ban.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes is proposing legislation to restrict sales of sodium nitrite to the general public in order to prevent the toxic substance from being used by people committing suicide.
LightRocket via Getty Images

A pink back of sodium nitrite
Sodium nitrite can be fatal in high amounts with producers sometimes dying the white substance pink in order to differentiate it from common products like table salt.

“I think we’ll get a lot of support for it,” Gounardes said.

Amazon has faced criticism in recent years for resisting efforts by bereaved families to limit the sale of the toxic compound — which has been tied to the deaths of at least 10 people who bought it from the site, according to The New York Times. In all, several dozen deaths nationwide have been linked to the chemical.

“They know it’s killing people,” Ruth Scott, a Texas resident whose 18-year-old son committed suicide, told the Times last year. “They are fully aware. They just don’t care.”

An attorney tied to Scott, who has filed a class action lawsuit against the e-commerce giant, eventually brought their fight to the attention of Gounardes.

The Brooklyn legislator told The Post Friday that he had personally seen sodium nitrite for sale on Amazon with purity levels way above the 6.25% allowed for commercial use.

“It shouldn’t be for sale on the open market. You should not be able to log on to Amazon and purchase sodium nitrite at levels that can kill you,” Gounardes said. “And this is really not a novel thing. I mean, Etsy and eBay have both banned the sale of any form of sodium nitrite over 6.25% purity globally, because there’s no use for it for anyone outside of like a commercial meat processor.”

An exterior shot of a building with an Amazon sign and blue sky
Amazon enacted a policy in Oct. 22 restricting sales of high concentrations sodium nitrite to its business customers.
Getty Images

A Post review of Amazon on Friday did not find any sales of sodium nitrite – a different substance than its chemical cousin sodium nitrate – in concentrations above 6.25% though other sites offered the chemical with purity rates as high as 98%.

An Amazon spokesperson told The Post Friday that the company began limiting sales of high-concentration nitrite, which is 95% or more pure, to its business customers in Oct. 2022 though members of the general public can still buy it with less than 10% purity.

But the company declined to comment on the bill proposed by Gounardes.

A spokesperson said “customer safety is a top priority” while expressing “deepest condolences to families who lost loved ones to suicide.

“We are committed to a safe shopping experience and require our selling partners to follow all applicable laws and regulations when listing items in our store,” the spokesperson said before adding: “High concentration sodium nitrite is not intended for direct consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused.”