Investigation seeks to identify link between coffee machine and illness at Yale School of Medicine

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Last month, four individuals became ill after drinking from a coffee machine in a building on the New Haven, Conn.-based Yale School of Medicine campus. An investigation has revealed new evidence about the potential cause of the illness.

On Feb. 28, the four people drank from the same single-serve, pod-style coffee machine in an office building on the Yale School of Medicine campus. After reporting sickness, the individuals were examined at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital and have now returned to work.

The New Haven Fire Department, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, the Yale Police Department and the Yale Environmental Health & Safety office launched an investigation into the incident.

In a March 7 letter to the medical school, Dean Robert Alpern, MD, said initial tests on objects from the office area revealed "the presence of sodium azide, a substance commonly found in laboratories and used as a preservative." Symptoms of contact with sodium azide include headache, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, according to the letter.

Although Yale Environmental Health & Safety said the area is currently safe, the investigation continues.

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