Woman ingests toxic substance, building evacuated
BOSTON (WHDH) -- A building in Boston’s South End was evacuated Monday night after officials say a woman committed suicide by ingesting a toxic chemical.
The fire department says a woman on the first floor of a Massachusetts Avenue apartment committed suicide by ingesting a toxic chemical. Officials are looking at whether or not she got the substance because of her studies -- she was a graduate student studying pharmacology.
“I was asleep. They knocked on our door and I opened up the door and there was a guy in a HazMat suit,” said Rich, a resident.
"It was 11:30, we were asleep and my roommate came in, yelling, 'we've got to evacuate, we've got to evacuate'," Richard Palizzolo said. "No one would tell us what was going on, so we all evacuated, tried to grab anything we could; we didn't know how long it was going to be. We came outside. They quarantined us."
Hazardous material crews suited up after the woman apparently committed suicide by ingesting a toxic poison.
“A sodium azide, which is in air bags, but it can metabolize into some kind of cyanide,” Deputy Fire Chief Steve Dunbar said.
The woman died at Boston Medical Center, the same hospital she was a graduate student at. The BMC confirmed she was a Ph.D. candidate in pharmacology. She was in her third year. Officials said she had access to standard biomedical chemicals, including toxins, but without a toxicology report there is no way to determine what she ingested or where she got it.
“She wasn't manifesting any signs when they transported her but she rapidly when downhill after arriving at Boston Medical Center," Dunbar said.
Four police officers and an ambulance team went to the hospital for decontamination. Twelve residents were monitored at the scene to make sure they weren’t exposed.
“They put the yellow tape between a couple of stairways over there and then they just asked us to wait there. That was it,” said one resident.
"I can't even imagine what would be going through her mind to make her take her own life," said another resident.
The officials and residents checked out okay.
The woman's Ph.D. advisor said she was a bright, promising researcher.
The toxicology report could take weeks.
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