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J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1994;32(2):173-8.

Methemoglobinemia caused by the accidental contamination of drinking water with sodium nitrite.

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  • 1National Poisons Information Service (Birmingham Center), West Midlands Poisons Unit, Dudley Road Hospital, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Sodium nitrite is used commercially as a coloring agent, a food preservative and a corrosion inhibitor. Accidental poisoning usually results from the ingestion of contaminated food and water and causes gastrointestinal irritation, vasodilatation and methemoglobinemia with subsequent tissue hypoxia. We describe an unusual case of sodium nitrite-induced methemoglobinemia following the ingestion of drinking water contaminated with a corrosion inhibitor. To our knowledge this is the first report of such a case.

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