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Nutrients. 2017 Jun 23;9(7). pii: E648. doi: 10.3390/nu9070648.

A Systematic Review of Fatalities Related to Acute Ingestion of Salt. A Need for Warning Labels?

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Department of Medicine, Physiology and Pharmacology and Community Health Sciences, O'Brien Institute for Public Health and Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4Z6, Canada.
The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4Z6, Canada.


There are sporadic cases of fatalities from acutely eating salt. Yet, on social media, there are "challenges to" and examples of children and some adults acutely eating salt, and recently a charity advocated eating small amounts of salt to empathize with Syrian refugees. We performed a systematic review of fatalities from ingesting salt to assess if relatively moderate doses of salt could be fatal. In 27 reports, there were 35 fatalities documented (19 in adults and 16 in children). The lethal dose was estimated to be less than 10 g of sodium (<5 teaspoons of salt) in two children, and less than 25 g sodium in four adults (<4 tablespoons of salt). The frequency of fatal ingestion of salt is not able to be discerned from our review. If investigation of the causes of hypernatremia in hospital records indicates salt overdose is relatively common, consideration could be given to placing warning labels on salt containers and shakers. Such warning labels can have the added advantage of reducing dietary salt consumption.


hypernatremia; hypertension; overdose; salt; sodium; warning labels

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

N.R.C.C. is a paid consultant to the Novartis Foundation to support their program to improve hypertension control in low to middle income countries which includes travel support for site visits and a contract to develop a survey. N.R.C.C. has also agree to provide paid consultative advice on accurate blood pressure assessment to Midway Corporation and is an unpaid member of World Action on Salt and Health (WASH); E.J.T. has no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose. E.J.T. is an unpaid volunteer board director of Open Arms Patient Advocacy Society and is a self-employed writer and administrator of the Anthony Train Corp.

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