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(Date of issue: March 2012, Version: 1)

This is a UKTIS monograph for use by health care professionals. For case-specific advice please contact UKTIS on 0344 892 0909. To report an exposure please download and complete a pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.


Sodium nitrite is a white or pale yellow odourless solid.  It is widely used in industry and in anti-corrosives.  Other uses include curing, colouring and preserving meat products, and occasionally in the treatment of cyanide poisoning.

There are no published data regarding acute sodium nitrite exposure in human pregnancy, therefore it is therefore not possible to provide an evidence-based assessment of the risk acute exposure poses to a developing fetus.  Following acute sodium nitrite exposure during pregnancy, maternal toxicity is likely to be a major determinant of risk to the fetus. 

Animal studies have demonstrated transplacental carcinogenesis following maternal administration of sodium nitrite in drinking water, in conjunction with other potentially teratogenic agents during pregnancy.  Some epidemiological studies in humans have suggested a link between dietary nitrite consumption in pregnancy (in the form of processed meats and from drinking water) and an increased risk of childhood cancer, although the data is conflicting and highly confounded.  There have also been concerns that maternal dietary nitrite intake in conjunction with maternal use of amine-containing (nitrosatable) drugs may increase the risk of neural tube defects in exposed infants, however available data are inconclusive and no specific analysis of dietary nitrite intake alone has been performed.

As with all chemicals, unnecessary exposure to sodium nitrite should be avoided.  However, where occupational exposure is unavoidable then precautions should be taken to ensure that exposure is well within the recommended exposure limits and not associated with toxic symptoms.  Where exposure to sodium nitrate has occurred in a poisoning/acute high-dose scenario, even in cases without apparent maternal toxicity, enhanced fetal monitoring may be warranted.  Discussion with UKTIS is recommended for all cases.

Note: This document has been archived and will not be routinely updated. If up-to-date information is required please contact UKTIS.

This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use full UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from TOXBASE.org to be sure you are using the most up-to-date version. The summaries of these monographs are openly available on UKTIS.org.

This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to health care professionals at www.toxbase.org.

If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.

If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this monograph was accurate and up-to-date at the time of writing, however it cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes of the measures recommended. The final decision regarding which treatment is used for an individual patient remains the clinical responsibility of the prescriber. This material may be freely reproduced for education and not for profit purposes within the UK National Health Service, however no linking to this website or reproduction by or for commercial organisations is permitted without the express written permission of this service. This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from TOXBASE.org or UKTIS.org to ensure you are using the most up-to-date version.