Arrest made in GTA sale of sodium nitrite, lethal substance linked to suicides

A Mississauga man is facing charges of aiding suicides in Peel Region, after allegedly marketing and selling sodium nitrite to people at risk of self-harm. Shauna Hunt with why investigators believe there could be more victims.

Peel Regional Police announced the arrest of a 57-year-old Ontario man stemming from the online distribution of sodium nitrite across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) that resulted in two deaths.

Authorities in Peel Region opened an investigation following a report from the Times of London in the United Kingdom. It mentioned that a GTA resident named Kenneth Law had been selling sodium nitrite, a legal but lethal drug, to people in the U.K. and the U.S., which resulted in seven suicides.

On March 31, officers in Peel Region began investigating the circumstances of a sudden death in Ontario. It is believed that Law distributed and marketed the substance online to target individuals at risk of self-harm.

Law was arrested by Peel police on Tuesday and charged with two counts of counselling or aiding in suicide.

He briefly appeared in front of a Brampton court by video feed, handcuffed in a holding cell, before his bail hearing was put over until May 9.

“The mental health and well-being of our communities is our main priority… we will not tolerate criminal actions by those who prey on vulnerable individuals in our community,” Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Marc Andrews said.

Law was registered in Mississauga and had been selling the drug to “vulnerable people,” the Times reported, adding that the GTA resident purposely targeted “suicidal buyers,” knowing that the drug would lead to death by suicide. The Times, citing an undercover buyer, alleged Law told them he was doing “God’s work.”

According to the CBC, Law said the allegations in the Times of London article were “false.”

Sodium Nitrite photo provided by Peel Regional Police.

Police list businesses to monitor following arrest

Investigators noted in a press release that if any residents received a package from companies including Imtime Cuisine, AmbuCA, Academic or ACademic, Escape Mode or escMode and ICemac to contact authorities immediately.

“We can’t say categorically all of those [packages] contain sodium nitrate,” Chief Andrews said.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) issued a similar warning of packages containing a potentially lethal substance that may have been sent to individuals at risk of self-harm in communities across the province.

Sodium nitrite is a salt compound commonly used to cure meats, but it can be lethal when ingested in high concentrations. Intentional consumption of specific amounts of the substance can reduce oxygen levels, impair breathing and result in death.

The National Library of Medicine referred to the mechanism of death by sodium nitrite toxicity as severe hypoxia following four confirmed cases of suicidal sodium nitrite ingestion that occurred within a two months-period in 2022.

In 2021, a peer-reviewed journal by Taylor and Francis Online said the increase in the ingestion of sodium nitrite “could represent a substantial public health threat.”

“The incidence of intentional self-poisoning with sodium nitrite has been increasing since 2017. Many of these exposures result in toxicity requiring antidotal therapy, and a high mortality rate was observed,” Taylor and Francis Online mentioned in the academic publication.

“Recent literature indicates that this trend may be the result of ready access to this poison through online vendors combined with recommendations shared in online communities that sodium nitrite be used as an effective method of suicide.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health and wellness, please call 1-833-456-4566 or visit Canada will get a three-digit suicide number (9-8-8) on November 30, 2023.

Calls and texts to 9-8-8 will be directed to a mental health crisis or suicide prevention service, free of charge.

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