January 14, 2019
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Image of N-Nitrosodimethylamine 3D Image of N-Nitrosodimethylamine

N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is a highly toxic, potentially carcinogenic liquid. It is synthesized by the reaction of dimethylamine or one of its salts with sodium or potassium nitrite.

NDMA has several industrial uses; the most common is as a precursor to the rocket fuel 1,1-dimethylhydrazine (1,1-DMH). It is found in the waste products of some industrial syntheses, including that of 1,1-DMH; in cured meat and fish; and in chlorinated nitrogen-rich wastewater.

NDMA’s high solubility in water and other solvents has led to its use in intentional poisonings that date back to 1973. In the most recent occurrence (2018), a graduate student at Queen’s University (Kingston, ON) dissolved NDMA in ethanol and added it to the food of a fellow student.

The victim experienced several unpleasant symptoms (e.g., diarrhea and vomiting); but unlike most NDMA victims, he survived. He says that he will always live in fear of developing cancer from the poisoning.

N-Nitrosodimethylamine hazard information

GHS classification*: flammable liquids, category 4
H227—Combustible liquid
GHS classification*: acute toxicity, oral, category 2
H300—Fatal if swallowedChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: acute toxicity, inhalation, category 1
H330—Fatal if inhaledChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: carcinogenicity, category 1B
H350—May cause cancerChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: specific target organ toxicity, repeated exposure, category 1
H372—Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposureChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: hazardous to the aquatic environment, acute hazard, category 2
H401—Toxic to aquatic life
GHS classification: hazardous to the aquatic environment, long-term hazard, category 2
H411—Toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effectsChemical Safety Warning

*Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Explanation of pictograms.

fast facts

CAS Reg. No.62-75-9
Empirical formulaC2H6N2O
Molar mass74.08 g/mol
AppearanceYellow oily liquid
Boiling point153 ºC
Water solubility290 g/L

MOTW update: September 21, 2020

N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is used to make rocket fuel; but, because it is extremely toxic, it is notorious for its use in some fatal poisonings. NDMA and other nitrosamines have been found as impurities in several prescription drugs. Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines on acceptable limits of six nitrosamine impurities. The limit set for NDMA is 96 ng/day.

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