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What You Need to Know About Sodium Azide

February 19, 2016

With the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeing an increase in the number of reported incidents involving sodium azide, it’s important circle back to discuss the compound itself, the potential danger of accumulating it over time, and proper disposal techniques.

A Potentially Explosive Situation

A colorless salt, sodium azide is an inorganic chemical compound that can often be found in car airbags and many reagents or stock solutions used in healthcare facilities. When nearing its decomposition temperature, or when it comes into contact with some metals, sodium azide can be particularly explosive, especially when it hasn’t been flushed properly.

When metals (e.g. copper, brass, or lead) interact with sodium azide in places like drain pipes or on lab instruments, where the compound may be concentrated, explosions can certainly occur. They can also occur due to improper disposal or storage.

Events reported to the FDA often illustrate incidents like explosions in pipes due to insufficient flushing. As you can imagine, these explosions can cause significant injuries, such as debris in the eye or cuts on the skin.

Needless to say, proper disposal shouldn’t be an afterthought.

How You Can Protect Yourself

In order to minimize the risk of explosions or other harmful incidents from improper sodium azide disposal, handling or storage, educating personnel is at the top of the list in terms of prevention measures.

Let’s take a glance at some of those measures.


  • If using the sewer system for disposal, flush sodium azide with 100 times more water than the solution itself
  • Follow instrument and analyzer label instructions when disposing of solutions
  • Follow State and Federal regulations for the proper handling and disposing of hazardous waste


  • Label all containers, waste disposal fixtures, and any medical instruments which use products containing the compound
  • Use plastic reservoirs, and label them, to collect the waste
  • Don’t store tubing or any other materials that could have come into contact with sodium azide solutions


  • Do not expose concentrated sodium azide to shock or friction
  • Always wear proper protective equipment, such as gloves and eyewear
  • Do not allow sodium azide to come into contact with heavy metals or acids, where there is a potential for the compound to become concentrated
  • If you have corroded materials and the corrosion may have occurred due to sodium azide, avoid touching or replacing the materials. Instead, contact the manufacturer for information on replacing or cleaning the item

Health Implications of Sodium Azide Exposure

In addition to causing harm during an explosion, people who are exposed to sodium azide in other ways can suffer some nasty symptoms. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being exposed a small amount of the compound by breathing it in, absorbing it through the skin, or ingesting it can lead to the following:

  • Cough
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Skin burns and blisters
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting

Being exposed to larger amounts of sodium azide can cause even more serious problems:

  • Convulsions
  • Lung injuries
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory failure

Sodium azide is a dangerous chemical and, in turn, must be handled and treated with caution. It’s important that you educate yourself and know as much about certain chemicals as you can prior to dealing with them.

Need Help?

If you’re still unsure of what to do with any sodium azide solution you have on-site, your best bet is to hire professionals to pick it up and dispose of the hazardous liquid in proper fashion. If you’d like to request a free quote or learn more about how the process works, the knowledgeable team at Hazardous Waste Experts is standing by. Give us a call at 800-936-2311 or click here to email us to get started.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.