Poisoned Harvard Scientist Says Spiked Coffee Was No Accident : Shots - Health News Workers at a Harvard pathology lab say their poisoning with sodium azide is awfully suspicious.
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Poisoned Harvard Scientist Says Spiked Coffee Was No Accident

Spend a little time in a biology lab, and you figure out pretty quickly nothing much gets done without using chemicals that could hurt you.

But nobody bargains on someone putting poison in the office espresso machine, as apparently happened at a Harvard pathology lab this summer.

More details are emerging about a case, under active investigation, of six scientists and students who were sent to the hospital in late August after drinking coffee contaminated with sodium azide, a chemical used to keep bacteria from growing where they shouldn't.

One student told the Boston Herald, which has been all over the story, that she knew something was wrong with the first mouthful of coffee. "My blood pressure went down and I had all the symptoms that I was fainting," she said.

ABCNews.com talked with researcher Matteo Iannacone, one of the victims, who said, "I can not think it would be an accident. Fortunately, I drank just a sip."

Innacone told the Herald earlier this month that "it took a while to connect the dots." But all the victims had similar symptoms, including sweating, rapid heartbeats and drops in blood pressure. They were all coffee-drinkers, too.

"An accident? Sodium azide is a poison," toxicologist David Benjamin told the Herald. "Absolutely not."

A Harvard spokesman told the Associated Press the university is looking into "every possible, conceivable option as to how this could have occurred."

The suspicious espresso machine has been removed. Harvard is beefing up security, adding surveillance cameras. While the investigation continues, the researchers still need coffee. "We are now going to the Starbucks downstairs," Iannacone told ABC.