Sodium nitrate overdose effects: Matthew Mindler death raises awareness

Yasmine Leung October 14, 2021
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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Actor Matthew Mindler committed suicide via an overdose of sodium nitrate – what exactly is the substance and how did he obtain it?

RIP Matthew Mindler

Former child actor Matthew Mindler has passed away aged 19 following a sodium nitrate overdose.

On 25 August 2021, the freshman at Millersville University, Pennsylvania, was reported missing after last being seen leaving his room at about 8pm the day before.

Three days later, his body was found in Manor Township near the campus.

The Lancaster County Medical Examiners Office has confirmed the death was due to suicide by sodium nitrate toxicity.

Matthew Mindler’s mother, Monica, revealed to Page Six her son suffered from anxiety. Looking at Matthew’s browsing history, Monica found he had searched for ‘how to commit suicide painlessly using sodium nitrate’. He later bought the substance online.

The actor was best known for his role as Steve Coogan’s son in 2011 film My Idiot Brother. Other credits include Peter in Chad: An American Boy, and Halloween Boy in As The World Turns.

What is sodium nitrate?

Sodium nitrate is a type of salt commonly used as a preservative agent for food including cured meat products such as bacon and deli meat. Sodium nitrate can also act as a colour fixative to give meat a pink hue.

It can also be used as fertiliser, supplying plants with nitrogen. That means many vegetables we eat such as spinach, carrots and lettuce contain sodium nitrate.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states the acceptable daily intake for nitrates is 3.7mg per 1kg of body weight per day. Therefore, a person who weighs 72.5kg (160lb) should only intake 0.26mg of sodium nitrate per day.

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Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Effects of poisoning

Sodium nitrate poisoning limits the transportation and delivery of oxygen in the body, caused by blood disorder methemoglobin.

A study entitled Fatal Sodium Nitrite Poisoning: Key Considerations For Prehospital Providers states the majority of poisonings are caused by unintentional exposure. However, the study’s authors highlight a case in which a 17-year-old girl drank about one tablespoon of sodium nitrate to commit suicide.

She suffered from low blood pressure and blue skin discolouration because of the lack of oxygen in her blood and died in hospital.

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.