Abstract for TR-389

Toxicology and Carcinogeneis Studies of Sodium Azide in F344 Rats (Gavage Studies)

CASRN: 26628-22-8
Chemical Formula: Na N3
Molecular Weight: 65.02
Synonyms/Common Names: Azide
Report Date: September 1991

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Sodium azide is a white crystalline solid used in the manufacture of the explosive lead azide. It is the principal chemical used to generate nitrogen gas in automobile safety airbags and airplane escape chutes and is a broad-spectrum biocide used in both research and agriculture.

Toxicology and carcinogenicity studies were conducted by administering sodium azide (greater than 99% pure) in distilled water by gavage to groups of male and female F344/N rats once daily, 5 days per week for 14 days, 13 weeks, or 2 years. Genetic toxicology studies were conducted in Salmonella typhimurium and Chinese hamster ovary cells.

Fourteen-day studies

Rats received 0, 5, 10, 20, 40, or 80 mg/kg sodium azide. All male and female rats receiving 40 or 80 mg/kg and two of five female rats receiving 20 mg/kg died during the first week of the studies. Clinical findings of toxicity included lethargy and inactivity. No grossly observable lesions were present in any of the dose groups.

Thirteen-week studies

Rats received 0, 1.25, 2.5, 5, 10, or 20 mg/kg sodium azide. Seven of 9 males and all 10 females receiving 20 mg/kg died before the end of the studies. Final mean body weights of treated rats were within 10% of those of the controls. Compound-related clinical findings of toxicity in the 20 mg/kg dose groups included lethargy and labored breathing. Histopathologic lesions induced by sodium azide were limited to the brain (necrosis of the cerebrum and thalamus) and lung (congestion, hemorrhage, and edema), and were observed in rats receiving 20 mg/kg that died during the studies.

Two-year studies

Body weights, feed consumption, and survival

Because compound-related deaths were observed in the groups receiving 20 mg/kg in the 13-week studies, lower dose levels were used in the 2-year studies. Two-year studies were conducted by administering 0, 5, or 10 mg/kg sodium azide to groups of 60 male and 60 female rats. Dose-related depression in mean body weight was observed throughout the study period. Mean feed consumption values in low- and high-dose groups were lower than control values. Survival of high-dose rats of each sex was significantly (P<0.05) lower than controls (males-control, 24/60; low-dose, 27/60; high-dose, 9/60; females-37/60; 43/60; 21/59). The reduced survival was attributed to brain necrosis and cardiovascular collapse induced by sodium azide.

Neoplastic and nonneoplastic effects

There were no compound-related increases in incidences of neoplasms in rats. Significantly decreased incidences were observed for certain neoplasms, including mononuclear cell leukemia in male rats (control, 33/60; low-dose, 28/60; high-dose, 14/60), adrenal gland pheochromocytoma in male rats (26/55; 16/56; 6/54), mammary gland fibroadenoma in female rats (20/60; 11/60; 8/59), and pituitary gland neoplasms in female rats (37/60; 28/60; 17/59). These decreases reflected to some extent, but could not be attributed solely to, the reduced survival of the high-dose groups. Compound-related nonneoplastic brain lesions (necrosis of the cerebrum and thalamus) were observed at significantly (P<0.001) increased incidences in high-dose male and female rats. The increased incidence of lung congestion observed in this dose group was considered due to cardiovascular collapse secondary to brain necrosis.

Genetic toxicology

Sodium azide was mutagenic in Salmonella typhimurium strains TA100 and TA1535, with or without exogenous metabolic activation (S9); it was not mutagenic in strain TA1537 or TA98. In cytogenetic tests with Chinese hamster ovary cells, sodium azide induced sister chromatid exchanges, but not chromosomal aberrations, in the presence and the absence of S9.


Under the conditions of these 2-year gavage studies, there was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium azide in male or female F344/N rats administered 5 or 10 mg/kg.

Sodium azide induced necrosis in the cerebrum and the thalamus of the brain in both male and female rats.