Grieving parents sue Amazon for allegedly selling 'suicide kits' to teenagers


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This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The families of two teenagers who took their own lives are suing Amazon and Loudwolf, accusing the world's largest online retailer and the chemical producer of selling so-called "suicide kits" and "knowingly assisting" in the teens' deaths by selling the minors the chemical they ingested at a fatal dose.

"Even after parents and regulators warned Amazon that sodium nitrite had no household use, Amazon continued to sell it to households, for under twenty dollars, and with two-day delivery," the court document said.

The lawsuit was filed last month in a California state court and first reported by NPR. It was brought by the parents of Kristine Jónsson, an Ohio teen who died last year at the age of 16, and by the parents of Ethan McCarthy of West Virginia, who died in 2020 at the age of 17.

Amazon is facing a lawsuit from the families of two teens who were able to purchase highly concentrated sodium nitrite on the site and used it to take their own lives. (Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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The complaint claims that Jónsson and McCarthy were both able to purchase concentrated sodium nitrite from Amazon. The chemical is a food preservative that can be lethal at a high dosage. 

According to the filing, when customers sought to purchase sodium nitrite, "Amazon recommends that customers also purchase a small scale to measure the right dose, Tagamet to prevent vomiting up the liquid, and the ’Amazon edition' of the Peaceful Pill Handbook which contains a chapter with instructions on how to administer these ingredients together to die."


"Amazon is selling a product that is as deadly as cyanide," Carrie Goldberg and Naomi Leeds, two attorneys for the families from the firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, told NPR in a statement.

The plaintiffs' attorneys added, "This is different from them selling rope, knives, or other implements that can be used for death because there is no household use for [sodium nitrite] at the level of purity (98-99%) it sells it."

Amazon Prime logo on a delivery van as it departs an Amazon Warehouse location in Dedham, Mass., Oct. 1, 2020.  (AP Newsroom)

Goldberg and Leeds also told NPR that Loudwolf's sodium nitrite product that both teens purchased and ingested is no longer sold on Amazon. At the time of the filing, Amazon stocked three brands of 98-99% pure sodium nitrite., the court document said.

Sodium nitrite is commonly used as a preservative for processed meats, but Goldberg told the outlet that some of the sodium nitrite sold on Amazon was at such a high level of purity that a person could die consuming as little as a teaspoon of the substance.

Goldberg said in a Twitter thread last week that "the product we’re suing about should not be mistaken for curing salt which is only 6% pure [sodium nitrate] and used to cure meats."


When contacted for comment, an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business in an emailed statement, "We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones personally affected by suicide."

A worker sorts out parcels in the outbound dock at Amazon fulfillment center in Eastvale on Tues., Aug. 31, 2021. (Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"Customer safety is a top priority at Amazon," the statement continued. "Sodium nitrite is a legal and widely-available product offered by retailers to preserve foods, such as meats and fish, and for use in laboratories as a reagent. Sodium nitrite is not intended for consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused."


Amazon noted that searches for the word "suicide" on its site present customers with a banner at the top of their search results with the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The complaint seeks economic and non-economic damages. The filing said the parents suffered severe emotional distress in the form of physical, psychological, and emotional trauma, among other injuries.

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