Cyanide Suicide Prompts Response Review By First Responders - News - @ JEMS.com


Cyanide Suicide Prompts Response Review By First Responders

Third case in six months in which an employee with access to lab chemicals is suspected of using cyanide.


 
 

Brattleboro Reformer | | Thursday, March 3, 2011


VIDEOS

Multimedia Thumb

First Responders Discuss Cyanide Suicide

First responders describe what they found.
more >





BOSTON - A prominent cancer research center said Wednesday it's reviewing how it handles and tracks lab chemicals after a worker there apparently committed suicide using cyanide.

It's the third Massachusetts case in six months in which an employee with access to lab chemicals is suspected of using cyanide taken from the workplace to commit suicide.

In September, a Northeastern University lab worker killed herself by drinking cyanide in orange juice. In November, a scientist killed himself with cyanide in Westborough after killing his wife.

On Tuesday, Boston police discovered the body of 72-year-old Olga Tretyakov, an employee at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, after her husband called to report that she might have killed herself with cyanide.

Boston police were investigating whether Tretyakov, a research technician, took the cyanide on purpose and got it at work. Although that's still unknown, Dana Farber spokesman Bill Schaller said the institute was reviewing lab safety practices.

"We are reviewing our procedures and the circumstances surrounding this incident," Schaller said. He declined to elaborate.

The toxicity of cyanide compounds is well-known -- it's been used in gas chamber executions. But cyanide is also used in the mining industry and metals treatment, and can be combined with other chemicals to make products such as superglue. Academic labs would have cyanide on hand for research, said Russ Phifer, former chairman of the committee on chemical safety for the American Chemical Society.

Phifer said the apparent cyanide suicides in Massachusetts over such a short time were coincidental, and it's not practical to completely prevent access to cyanide or other highly poisonous materials commonly found in labs.

"(Cyanide) is highly regulated, but not in terms of laboratory use in small scale. It's just not," he said. "It would take a complete change in safety culture."

That doesn't mean steps can't be taken to make the deadly substance more difficult for people to take home, he said.

"Most labs do secure certain chemicals, but they're more likely to be concerned about explosive or highly reactive chemicals than they are about toxics, and maybe that's something that needs to change," he said.

On Tuesday, two residents of the Brighton neighborhood where Tretyakov lived, as well as three police officers and four firefighters who responded to the scene, were taken to a hospital to be sure they hadn't been exposed to the cyanide.

In a statement, Dana Farber said Tretyakov was "a member of our research community for more than 20 years, and we are deeply saddened by this loss."

"We are working closely with the Boston police to learn more about the circumstances of her death," the statement said.

In September, Northeastern University lab technician Emily Staupe committed suicide at her Milford home by drinking a mixture of cyanide and orange juice. The 30-year-old Staupe had access to cyanide through her job, and her death prompted Northeastern to review how it handles dangerous substances.

Last month, the Worcester County district attorney's office said an autopsy of 43-year-old Richard "Todd" Bibart showed he had died of "intentional ingestion of cyanide" in November after killing his wife, Rebecca, in their Westborough home. The couple was in the midst of a contentious divorce.

Authorities said Bibart was a "professional scientist" with "the ability to obtain cyanide," though they didn't give specifics.





First Responders Discuss Cyanide Suicide


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, scene safety, hazmat, decontamination

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Car Strikes Manhattan Pedestrians

Seven people hurt when car jumps curb.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >