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Colorado lawmakers look to regulate food preservative being used for suicide

State lawmakers hear powerful testimony about a bill to regulate the sale of sodium nitrite
State lawmakers hear powerful testimony about a bill to regulate the sale of sodium nitrite 02:57

Colorado lawmakers heard powerful testimony Tuesday about a bill aimed at saving lives. The measure would regulate a food preservative that is lethal in its concentrated form.

The preservative, sodium nitrite, is primarily used - in a diluted form - by meat processing companies. But in recent years, it has also been increasingly used - in its pure form - as a suicide agent.


It is fast-acting, cheap and readily available. There are even websites that encourage vulnerable individuals to use it as a way of ending their suffering.

Bruce Brown told the Senate Business Committee his 17-year-old son Bennett visited one of those websites in a moment of weakness, purchased sodium nitrite from a sportsmen's supply store, and used it to end his life.

Peter Frankovsky's son Sam - who worked for the Federal Trade Commission and was studying for the LSAT - also died from sodium nitrite poisoning.

The two fathers urged the committee to pass a bill that would outlaw the sale of pure sodium nitrite in Colorado, except to those with commercial licenses, and require manufacturers to label it as a poison.

"Sam is not here because of the convenience, ease, and promotion of sodium nitrite. I'm here on behalf of my family to ask you to support this bill, to do the right thing and help other people," said Frankovsky.   

Brown told lawmakers his son bought sodium nitrite online for just $13.99 and he says the store knew what it was being used for.

Peter Frankovsky and Bruce Brown testify in front of state lawmakers about a bill to regular sodium nitrite, a preservative used for suicide.  CBS

"I know because I sent an investigator there after he died. When asked, the manager said, 'Sure, we know people are killing themselves with this, not our problem.' Bennet canceled his order once, and you know what the retailer did, told him he left something in his cart, so he finalized his order," said Brown.

Brown says his son died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. While there is an antidote for sodium nitrite, first responders don't carry it. At Brown's urging the Colorado Department of Health is trying to change that.

The bill has bi-partisan sponsors in both chambers. State Representatives Judy Amabile and Marc Catlin are the House sponsors and Senators Dylan Roberts and Byron Pelton are the Senate sponsors.

If the bill becomes law, Colorado would be among the first states to regulate sodium nitrite. Roberts told committee members it was a balanced approach.

"What we need to do in Colorado is recognize that this is a problem and take reasonable steps and that's what this bill proposes, to limit the access of pure sodium nitrite to vulnerable people while maintaining its availability for legitimate commercial purposes," said Senator Dylan Roberts, a Democrat representing Eagle County

The bill passed the committee unanimously with no opposition and is headed to the full Senate. It has already passed the House.

If you are feeling suicidal, there is help. You can call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or visit You can also call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. 

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