Lawmakers press Amazon over sale of chemicals used in suicides

In a written response to lawmakers Thursday, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, expressed his condolences to the families of the dead as he defended Amazon’s practices and sale of the compound. He said it was used for a variety of purposes and available from other retailers.

“Amazon makes a wide selection of products available to our customers because we trust that they will use those products as intended by the manufacturers,” he wrote. “Like many commonly available consumer products,” he added, “unfortunately, the compound can be misused.”

The lawmakers found the company’s answers insufficient.

“Amazon had an opportunity with their response to work with us on this issue that is tragically ending people’s lives across our country,” said Representative Trahan. “Instead, they couldn’t answer many of our most critical questions”

In email exchanges with The Times, an Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on the 10 deaths The Times identified.

Other sites said they had restricted sales of the compound.

Last year, an eBay executive wrote to a coroner in England that the company had banned worldwide sales of the compound in 2019 after receiving a report about its possible use in suicides. However, The Times has since identified eight suicides involving eBay sales of the poison, including one death the coroner was assessing.

eBay did not respond to detailed emails and messages requesting comment. But in the letter to the coroner, the eBay executive acknowledged that despite the ban, it was possible for “unscrupulous or unwitting sellers to circumvent our policies and filters.” He wrote that the company would support government restrictions on online sales of the chemical to prevent future suicides.

In November 2020, Etsy banned the sale of the compound, a spokesperson said, who declined to explain why. An Etsy customer posted in May 2018 that he intended to use his purchase to commit suicide. In August 2020, a 35-year-old in Mississippi wrote on the suicide site that he had purchased the compound on the site. Days later he was dead.

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