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It was important to read the recent letters that revisited the dangers associated with the use of sodium azide (C&EN Jan. 11, page 4; April 5, page 5; and Nov. 9, 2009, page 8). None of these letters, however, mentions the hazards of exposing sodium azide to halogenated solvents.
We earlier reported the probable production of diazidomethane when methylene chloride was used as an extraction solvent in the workup of a reaction that employed excess sodium azide as a reagent (C&EN, March 14, 1994, page 4). It is convenient for chemists to use heavier than water chlorinated solvents for extraction of reaction mixtures that are diluted with water. However, if the aqueous phase contains azide, this procedure can lead to the production of the very explosive diazidomethane (N to C weight ratio of 6). Chlorinated solvents should never come into contact with sodium azide.
Norton P. Peet
North Andover, Mass.
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