Harvard Probes Poisoning at Med School Lab

Office coffee caused fainting, dizziness, ringing in the ears
By M. Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2009 3:47 PM CDT
Six Harvard Medical School researchers and students were poisoned by coffee from a common machine.   (©keeping it real)
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(Newser) – Harvard Medical School is investigating after six workers in the pathology department were poisoned by coffee prepared near their lab. The researchers and students were treated and released after suffering dizziness, low blood pressure, and other symptoms during the August incident. "As the investigation continues, we are being prudent and taking additional precautionary measures to ensure the well-being of our community," reads an internal memo explaining stepped-up security and leaked to the Boston Herald.

The coffee was found to contain sodium azide, a cyanide-like preservative used in medical labs. Employees have been told not to speak to the media, but before the news blackout, one doctor told the Herald, "It looks to me that some substance was put into the coffee." In response, "we are in the process of installing additional security cameras throughout our buildings, and we are strengthening the security systems that manage access to the laboratories during both normal business hours and off hours," the memo reads.