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Assemblymember Connolly Confronts Teen Suicide Epidemic with New Legislation

AB 1109 restricts the ability for retailers & online marketplaces to sell deadly chemicals to teenagers

For immediate release:


SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1109, prohibiting retailers and online marketplaces from selling the chemical “sodium nitrite” to anyone under the age of twenty-one. Sodium nitrite is an inorganic compound that has become a frequent item used by teenagers to take their own lives. Throughout the country, Poison Control centers have reported a 253 percent increase in self-poisoning with nitrites and a 166 percent increase in fatalities in 2021 in comparison to 2018. At low-levels of purity (10 percent and below) sodium nitrite is commonly used as a food preservative. However, consuming the compound in high-levels of purity can cause fatal poisoning. While there is no legitimate use for sodium nitrate in concentrations of purity above 10 percent, major retailers have been selling it at levels of purity up to 99 percent. Because the chemical can be easily purchased in highly pure forms and delivered directly to an individual’s residence, it has become a tragically frequent method of committing suicide.


“Despite pure sodium nitrite having no legitimate application in everyday life, teenagers have been able to easily purchase the chemical in cheap, concentrated forms through several different retail platforms,” said Assemblymember Connolly. “The widespread availability of such a deadly compound has undeniably worsened our mental health crisis by providing teenagers in a moment of struggle, an easy means of taking their own lives. AB 1109 addresses this issue by raising the purchase age of pure sodium nitrite, dissuading young people from making a potentially devastating and irreversible decision.”


Last year, the parents of 16-year-old Kristine Jónsson of Ohio and the parents of 17-year-old Ethan McCarthy of West Virginia filed a complaint in California state court against the company Amazon, claiming that the retailer assisted in the deaths of the two minors by selling them pure forms of sodium nitrite, some in such high concentrations that a single teaspoon could be fatal. Disturbingly, reports detail that online algorithms also recommended customers who purchased the chemical also buy a scale to measure the correct dose, an anti-vomiting drug that would ensure the poisoning be fatal, and even a handbook on assisted suicide. 


Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of suicide among young people has spiked dramatically. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and a report from the California Department of Public Health, emergency department visits for suicide attempts has increased with children ages 12 to 17 and the number of suicides among youth 18 and under rose in 2020. AB 1109 confronts this issue by restricting the ability for young people to easily purchase sodium nitrite, preventing struggling teens from making a deadly decision during moments of struggle.


AB 1109 now resides in the Assembly Rules Committee, awaiting referral to its first policy committee.




Assemblymember Connolly represents the entirety of Marin County and Southern Sonoma County