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Handling Sodium Azide

See requirements for UC San Diego researchers working with sodium azide.

Sodium azide (NaN3) is a common preservative of samples and stock solutions in laboratories and a useful reagent in synthetic work. Sodium azide is also extremely toxic (LD50 oral [rat] 27mg/kg) and a powerful poison. Ingesting very small amounts can cause death in a short period of time.

Requirement for researchers

UC San Diego researchers working with highly toxic materials such as sodium azide must complete a hazard control plan (HCP) obtained through the HCP application. This HCP must be preapproved by the principal investigator prior to beginning any work with this material. Information on this Blink page is supplementary and is not intended to replace the approved HCP.

Never work alone when working with hazardous chemicals.

Obtain approval before beginning work.

Get approval from your principal investigator before beginning a project involving sodium azide.

Evaluate the hazards before beginning work.

  • Consult safety resources available on:
  • Consider these hazards specific to sodium azide:
    • When mixed with water or acid, sodium azide changes rapidly to a toxic gas with a pungent odor. However, the odor may not be sharp enough to give people sufficient warning as to the hazard.
    • When heated to its decomposition temperature of ~275°C, sodium azide may undergo violent decomposition.
    • Additional hazards:
      • Sodium azide also changes into a toxic gas when it comes in contact with solid metals.
      • Sodium azide reacts violently with nitric acid, bromine, carbon disulfide, dimethylsulfate, and several heavy metals including copper and lead.
        • Never flush sodium azide (solid or concentrated solution) down the drain — the azide can react with lead or copper in the drain lines and explode.
        • Do not store on metal shelves or use metal items to handle sodium azide (i.e., spatulas). Contact with metal shelves, containers, and utensils can result in the formation of heavy metal azides and the risk of explosion.
  • Use a less dangerous product than sodium azide if one is available that can perform the same task.
Questions? Contact the EH&S Chemical Hygiene Officer.
Notice: Disposal of hazardous waste using sinks, intentional evaporation, or as regular trash is against the law. Campus laboratories must abide by strict state and federal waste disposal requirements. You may be held liable for violations of applicable laws.