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A Health and Welfare Ministry panel has decided to designate sodium azide as a toxic substance under the Poisonous Material Control Law in the wake of its use in a series of crimes, panel members said Monday.

Sodium azide is designated as a hazardous material under the Fire Defense Law because of its explosive nature. It is commonly used as a detonator for air bags in vehicles. However, it was not designated under the poison law because it is not widely available in significant quantities.

The toxic material was used in poisoning cases at the Niigata branch of wood processing firm Xyence Corp., the bioresources department of Mie University and other medical institutions.

Ten Xyence employees were sickened after drinking beverages made with sodium azide-laced water from the office electric pot. Under the ministry’s instruction, the special panel on poisonous materials under the Central Pharmaceutical Affairs Council studied whether the chemical should be added to the list.

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