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CHEMINFO Record Number: 696
CCOHS Chemical Name: Sodium benzoate

Benzoate of soda
Benzoate sodium
Benzoic acid, sodium salt
Sodium benzoic acid
Phenylcarboxylic acid, sodium salt

Chemical Name French: Benzoate de sodium
CAS Registry Number: 532-32-1
RTECS Number(s): DH6650000
EU EINECS/ELINCS Number: 208-534-8
Chemical Family: Aromatic carboxylic acid salt / aromatic monocarboxylic acid salt / benzenecarboxylic acid salt / benzoate / sodium salt
Molecular Formula: C7-H5-Na-O2
Structural Formula: C6H5-C(=O)-O-.Na+


Appearance and Odour:
White, odourless granules, crystalline powder or flakes.(8,9,10,27) Hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air).(8,27)

Odour Threshold:

Warning Properties:
Insufficient information for evaluation.

Sodium benzoate is available in various grades with purity of 99% and greater.

Uses and Occurrences:
Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in foods, cosmetics, mouthwashes, pharmaceuticals and water-based paints; as a corrosion inhibitor in engine cooling systems and water-based paints; in the production of razor blades, engine parts, bearings, etc.; and as a chemical intermediate for dyes.(8,10,28,29). It is also used as a diagnostic reagent for liver functions; and as a nerve stimulant in combination with caffeine.(8,9)


White, odourless granules, crystalline powder or flakes. Hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air). Can decompose at high temperatures forming corrosive and toxic disodium oxide and sodium carbonate. COMBUSTIBLE DUST. Dry powder can form explosive dust-air mixtures. Generally has very low toxicity. Skin contact or ingestion may cause non-allergic hives, itchiness and a skin rash in some people.


Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure

Sodium benzoate is a solid and does not form a vapour. Dusts or mists (from solutions) may cause temporary irritation of nose and throat, nasal discharge, sneezing and coughing. There is no specific human or animal information available.

Skin Contact:
Sodium benzoate is not a skin irritant, based on limited animal information. However, skin contact may cause hives, itchiness and a skin rash in some people. The symptoms appear shortly after exposure and disappear within a few hours. This reaction, although similar to an allergic reaction, is not considered an immune response. People with a history of allergies are not thought to be any more likely to develop this reaction than those with no previous history of allergies.(1,23)
Three employees exposed by airborne contact with sodium benzoate dust developed hives (contact urticaria) due to skin contamination. The reaction was determined to be non-allergic. In all cases, the men developed redness, patchy swelling, burning and itching in areas of contact with sodium benzoate dust. Two of the men developed reactions only under conditions of prolonged exposure and when they were sweating. The condition developed within 15-30 minutes after exposure and lasted up to 2 hours. Patch testing was conducted with the 3 men and 3 previously exposed healthy controls. Negative results were obtained for 0.5% sodium benzoate in water. One worker and 2 controls tested positive for 0.5% sodium benzoate in saline and one control tested positive for 10% sodium benzoate in petrolatum.(6)
In another study, 66 people who had developed hand eczema from handling foodstuffs were patch tested using the Finn Chamber method. Slight swelling (edema), regarded as non-immunological contact urticaria, was considered an "irritant" reaction. In 6 cases, this type of reaction was observed following testing with 5% sodium benzoate. In most cases, the individuals tested were occupationally exposed to foods (e.g. chefs, cooks or kitchen assistants, food sellers or packers).(24)

Eye Contact:
Dusts or mists (from solutions) are not expected to be irritating, based on limited animal information.

Ingestion of sodium benzoate can cause a sensitivity reaction. Contact usually results from the use of sodium benzoate as a preservative in some foods. Symptoms can include hives (urticaria), an itchy, runny nose, asthma (wheezing and difficulty breathing), a skin rash, headache and stomach upset. Symptoms appear shortly after exposure and disappear within a few hours. Most, if not all, of the ingestion case reports involve non-occupational exposure. The reaction is not considered to be an immune response.(1,4,7,18)
Ingestion is not a typical route of occupational exposure.

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure

Skin Sensitization:
While sometimes referred to as a skin sensitizer, sodium benzoate can actually cause a non-allergic hive reaction in some people following short-term skin contact or ingestion. See "Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure" for more information.


There is no human information available. No carcinogenic effects have been observed in the small number of animal studies located.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has not evaluated the carcinogenicity of this chemical.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has no listing for this chemical.

The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) has not listed this chemical in its report on carcinogens.

Teratogenicity and Embryotoxicity:
There is no human information available. In animal studies, no significant effects have been observed in the offspring in the absence of maternal toxicity.

Reproductive Toxicity:
There is no human or animal information available.

There is no human information available. The available animal information indicates that sodium benzoate is not mutagenic.

Toxicologically Synergistic Materials:
There is no information available.

Potential for Accumulation:
Does not accumulate. Rapidly broken down and eliminated.


If symptoms are experienced, remove source of contamination or move victim to fresh air. If symptoms persist, obtain medical advice immediately.

Skin Contact:
Sodium benzoate can cause non-allergic hives in some people. Avoid direct contact. Wear chemical protective clothing, if necessary. As quickly as possible, flush with lukewarm, gently flowing water for at least 20 minutes or until the chemical is removed. Under running water, remove contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods (e.g. watchbands, belts). Obtain medical advice immediately. Completely decontaminate clothing, shoes and leather goods before re-use or discard.

Eye Contact:
Avoid direct contact. Wear chemical protective gloves, if necessary. DO NOT allow victim to rub eye(s). Let the eye(s) water naturally for a few minutes. Have victim look right and left, and then up and down. If particle/dust does not dislodge, flush with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 5 minutes or until particle/dust is removed, while holding the eyelid(s) open. If irritation persists, obtain medical attention. DO NOT attempt to manually remove anything stuck to the eye(s).

If symptoms develop, obtain medical advice immediately.

First Aid Comments:
Provide general supportive measures (comfort, warmth, rest).
Consult a doctor and/or the nearest Poison Control Centre for all exposures except minor instances of inhalation or skin contact.
All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a doctor familiar with the material and its conditions of use in the workplace.


Flash Point:
Not applicable. Does not form a vapour.

Lower Flammable (Explosive) Limit (LFL/LEL):
Not applicable

Upper Flammable (Explosive) Limit (UFL/UEL):
Not applicable

Autoignition (Ignition) Temperature:
Not available

Sensitivity to Mechanical Impact:
Not sensitive. Stable material.

Electrical Conductivity:
Not available

Minimum Ignition Energy:
Not available

Combustion and Thermal Decomposition Products:
Sodium carbonate and disodium oxide are the products of combustion.(1,8,27,29)

Flammable Properties:

Extinguishing Media:
Extinguish fire using extinguishing agents suitable for the surrounding fire.

Fire Fighting Instructions:
Evacuate area and fight fire from a safe distance or a protected location. Avoid generating dust to minimize risk of explosion. Water can be used in the form of spray or fog to prevent dust formation.
Approach fire from upwind to avoid toxic, corrosive decomposition products.
If sodium benzoate is not involved in the fire, move containers from the fire area only if they have not been exposed to heat. Decomposition can occur under intense fire conditions causing heated containers to rupture. Apply water from as far a distance as possible, in flooding quantities as a spray or fog to keep fire-exposed containers or equipment cool and absorb heat, until well after the fire is out.

Protection of Fire Fighters:
The decomposition products of sodium benzoate may be toxic and corrosive to skin. Do not enter without wearing specialized equipment suitable for the situation. Firefighter's normal protective clothing (Bunker Gear) will not provide adequate protection. Chemical protective clothing (e.g. chemical splash suit) and positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (NIOSH approved or equivalent) may be necessary.


NFPA - Comments:
NFPA has no listing for this chemical in Codes 49 or 325.


Molecular Weight: 144.11

Conversion Factor:
Not applicable

Physical State: Solid
Melting Point: Greater than 300 deg C (572 deg F) (33)
Boiling Point: Does not boil (decomposes).
Relative Density (Specific Gravity): 1.44 (solid) (water = 1) (27); 1.09 (22% solution in water); 1.12 (29%); 1.154 (36.7%) at 20 deg C (water = 1) (8)
Solubility in Water: Very soluble (61-63 g/100 mL at 25 deg C).(28,34); also reported as 55.6 g/100 mL at 25 deg C.(9,33))
Solubility in Other Liquids: Moderately soluble in ethanol (1.3 g/100 mL) (9,34); soluble in glycerol and methanol.(28)
Coefficient of Oil/Water Distribution (Partition Coefficient): Log P(oct) = -2.27 (estimated) (35)
pH Value: Approximately 7.5-8 (25% solution in water) (28)
Viscosity-Dynamic: Not applicable
Surface Tension: Not applicable
Vapour Density: Not applicable
Vapour Pressure: Not applicable. Does not form vapour.
Saturation Vapour Concentration: Not applicable
Evaporation Rate: Not applicable
Henry's Law Constant: Not available


Normally stable.

Hazardous Polymerization:
Does not occur.

Incompatibility - Materials to Avoid:

NOTE: Chemical reactions that could result in a hazardous situation (e.g. generation of flammable or toxic chemicals, fire or detonation) are listed here. Many of these reactions can be done safely if specific control measures (e.g. cooling of the reaction) are in place. Although not intended to be complete, an overview of important reactions involving common chemicals is provided to assist in the development of safe work practices.

STRONG OXIDIZING AGENTS (e.g. calcium hypochlorite, nitric acid, perchlorates) - can react vigorously with an increased risk of fire.(27)
ACIDS (e.g. hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid) - may react vigorously to produce benzoic acid.(29)

Hazardous Decomposition Products:
None reported.

Conditions to Avoid:
Generation of dust, static charge, sparks, heat and other ignition sources.

Corrosivity to Metals:
Not corrosive. Pure, solid sodium benzoate is not corrosive to copper, Incolloy, silicon copper, steel, cast iron, stainless steel (types 26-1, 304 and 316), nickel alloys, tantalum and titanium (corrosion rate less than 0.05 mm/year); or to aluminum, Hastelloy, Inconel, Monel, nickel and silicon bronze (corrosion rate less than 0.5 mm/year).(36,37) Sodium benzoate solutions (5-60% concentrations in water) are not corrosive to copper and bronze (corrosion rate less than 0.05 mm/year) or to steel, cast iron, stainless steel (types 12 Cr, 17 Cr, 26-1, 304,316 and 20-25-4.5), brass, nickel and its alloys and titanium (corrosion rate less than 0.5 mm/year) at 25-93 deg C. (37)

Corrosivity to Non-Metals:
Pure, solid sodium benzoate does not attack plastics, such as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), chlorinated polyether (Penton), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), E-CTFE (Halar), ETFE (Tetzel), FEP, nylon, Teflon, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF; Kynar) and vinyl ester; and elastomers, such as as Chemraz (FPM), Fluorocarbon FKM, chloroprene, ethylene-propylene-diene (EPDM), ethylene-propylene terpolymer (EPT), Kalrez (FPM), Nitrile Buna-N (NBR) and Nordel (EPDM). Teflon is resistant greater than 238 deg C and FEP is resistant to 204 deg C.(36,38,39)


LD50 (oral, mouse): 1600 mg/kg (20, unconfirmed; original unavailable in English)
LD50 (oral, rat): 2100 mg/kg (22)
LD50 (oral, rat): 4070 mg/kg (12)
An LD50 (oral, rabbit) of 2000 mg/kg is commonly reported, but this value is actually a lethal dose value (LD) rather than an LD50 (25)

Eye Irritation:

Unpublished studies indicate that sodium benzoate is slightly irritating (score 9.3/110) or not irritating.(7)

Skin Irritation:

Unpublished studies indicate that sodium benzoate is not irritating.(7)

Effects of Short-Term (Acute) Exposure:

Ingestion of very high doses (up to 3000 mg/kg/day) has not produced significant harmful effects. Extremely high doses (over 3000 mg/kg/day) have produced deaths and liver injury.

Five-week old rats were fed 0, 1.81, 2.09 or 2.40% and mice were fed 0, 2.08, 2.50 or 3.00% in their diets for 10 days. Approximate doses were 2360, 2730 or 3130 mg/kg/day for male rats, 2590, 2990 or 3430 mg/kg/day for female rats and 2500, 3000 or 3600 mg/kg/day for mice. All high dose mice showed clinical signs of toxicity (3/10 had convulsions; 2 females died). Mean body weights were reduced in high dose rats. Relative liver weights were increased in mid and high dose male rats, high dose female rats and high dose mice. Relative kidney weights were increased in high dose rats and high dose female mice. Signs of liver injury were noted, with changes in serum albumin, total protein, cholesterol, triglyceride and cholinesterase levels, mostly in the high dose groups. Liver damage was noted in high dose male rats (enlarged hepatocytes) and high dose male mice (enlargement, vacuolation and necrosis of hepatocytes).(17) No significant effects were noted in rats exposed to 16 to 1090 mg/kg for 30 days.(12) Rats exposed to very high levels (5%) of sodium benzoate in their diets (5686 mg/kg/day for males; 7780 mg/kg/day for females) died within 2 weeks. Lower (2%), but still quite high, concentrations (2357 mg/kg/day for males; 2396 mg/kg/day for females) produced reduced body weight in males.(16) In another study, the addition of 5% sodium benzoate to their diets for 3 weeks produced weight loss, a reduction in liver phospholipids and decreased potassium in skeletal muscles in male rats.(21)

Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure:

Ingestion of very high doses (up to 2%) has not produced significant harmful effects. Extremely high doses (4 or 8%) have caused deaths.

Rats were exposed to 0.5, 1, 2, 4 or 8% in their diets for 6 weeks. Approximate doses were 300, 600, 1200, 2400 or 4800 mg/kg/day. At 8%, all animals died (20/20) and at 4%, 20/21 animals died. At 2%, the majority of animals survived (19/20).(2) Sodium benzoate was administration to mice at concentrations of 0.5, 1, 2, 4 or 8% in drinking water for 35 days. Approximate doses were 1000, 2000, 4000 or 8000 mg/kg/day. At 8%, all mice died within 3 weeks. At 4%, 3/4 males and 3/4 females died during the 35-day observation period. At 4%, the body weight of the surviving mice was substantially reduced.(5)

No carcinogenic effects have been observed in the small number of studies located.
Rats received feed containing 0, 1 or 2% sodium benzoate for 18 or 24 months. Approximate doses were 1000 or 2000 mg/kg/day for males and 860 or 1725 mg/kg/day for females. No clinical signs of toxicity were noted in treated rats. There was no evidence of carcinogenicity.(2) In a lifetime study, mice were given drinking water containing 2% sodium benzoate. The approximate dose was 4000 mg/kg/day. A control group was given untreated water. There was no effect on survival and no carcinogenic effects were noted upon autopsy.(5)

Teratogenicity, Embryotoxicity and/or Fetotoxicity:
No significant effects have been observed in the absence of maternal toxicity.
Mice and rats were orally exposed to 1.75, 8, 38 and 175 mg/kg on days 6-15 or pregnancy. Hamsters were orally exposed to 3, 14, 65 or 300 mg/kg on days 6-10 or pregnancy. Rabbits were orally exposed to 2.5, 12, 54 or 250 mg/kg on days 6-18 of pregnancy. Neither adverse effects on maternal or fetal survival nor a significant increase in fetal abnormalities in soft or skeletal tissues were noted in any of the animals.(1,7 citing an unpublished study) Rats were given 1, 2, 4 or 8% sodium benzoate in their diets throughout pregnancy. Approximate doses were 500, 1000, 2000 or 4000 mg/kg/day. Food consumption was reduced in the 4 and 8% groups. Body weight was decreased at 8% and slightly increased at 4%. Many abnormalities of organs and skeletal systems were observed in the fetuses of these two groups and 100% perinatal death was observed. In the 1 and 2% groups, no significant differences were noted.(11) In a neurobiological study, rats (8/group) received feed containing 0, 0.1, 0.5, or 1.0% sodium benzoate in feed beginning on day 5 of pregnancy and continuing through pregnancy and lactation. Approximate doses for the mothers were 50, 250 or 500 mg/kg/day. On day 22, the pups were weaned onto the same diet as their mothers. Approximate doses for the pups were 300, 1500 or 3000 mg/kg/day. No significant effects were noted in mothers (body weight gain) or pups (body weight, spontaneous motor activity or brain monamine levels).(15) This study is limited by the small number of animals/group.

The information available indicates that sodium benzoate is not mutagenic.
Negative results (chromosomal aberrations in bone marrow) were obtained in rats orally exposed to 50, 500, or 5000 mg/kg either in a single dose or 5 doses, each 24 hours apart.(26) In a dominant lethal assay with rats using a similar dosing schedule, negative results were also reported.(26)
Positive results (sister chromatid exchanges; chromosomal aberrations) were observed in cultured Chinese hamster cells.(3,14) Positive (sister chromatid exchanges in lymphocytes) and negative results (chromosomal aberrations in embryonic lung cells) have been obtained in cultured human cells.(19,26) Negative results were obtained in a host-mediated assay where mice were orally dosed with 50, 500 or 5000 mg/kg sodium benzoate and then inoculated with bacteria. The bacteria were then removed and tested for mutagenic effects.(26) Negative results were obtained in other tests using bacteria, both with and without metabolic activation.(1,13)


Selected Bibliography:
(1) Cosmetics Ingredient Review. Final report on the safety assessment of benzyl alcohol, benzoic acid, and sodium benzoate. International Journal of Toxicology. Vol. 20, suppl. 3 (2001). p. 23-50
(2) Sodemoto, Y., et al. Report of carcinogenesis bioassay of sodium benzoate in rats: absence of carcinogenicity of sodium benzoate in rats. Journal of Environmental Pathology and Toxicology. Vol. 4 (1980). p. 87-95
(3) Abe, S., et al. Chromosome aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges in Chinese hamster cells exposed to various chemicals. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Vol. 58, no. 6 (June 1977). p. 1635-1640
(4) Ellenhorn, M.J., et al. Medical toxicology: diagnosis and treatment of human poisoning. Elsevier, 1988. p. 1200-1207
(5) Toth, B. Lack of tumorigenicity of sodium benzoate in mice. Fundamental and Applied Toxicology. Vol. 4, no. 3 (1984). p. 494-496
(6) Nethercott, J.R., et al. Airborne contact urticaria due to sodium benzoate in a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. Journal of Occupational Medicine. Vol. 26, no. 10 (Oct. 1984). p. 734-736
(7) International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS). Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate. Concise international chemical assessment document, no. 26. World Health Organization, 2000
(8) Maki, T., et al. Benzoic acid and derivatives: salts of benzoic acid: sodium benzoate. In: Ullmann's encyclopedia of industrial chemistry. 5th completely revised ed. Vol. A 3. VCH Publishers, 1985. p. 559
(9) Sodium benzoate. In: The Merck index: an encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs and biologicals. Edited by M.J. O'Neil, et al. 13th ed. Merck and Company, 2001. p. 1536
(10) Lewis, Sr., R.J., ed. Sodium benzoate. In: Hawley's condensed chemical dictionary. [CD-ROM]. 14th ed. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2002
(11) Onodera, H., et al. Studies on effects of sodium benzoate on fetuses and offspring of Wistar rats. [In Japanese; English Abstract]. Bulletin of the Institute of Hygienic Sciences. No. 96 (1978). p. 47-55
(12) Smyth, H.F., Jr., et al. Further experience with the range finding test in the industrial toxicology laboratory. Journal of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. Vol. 30, no. 1 (1948). p. 63-68
(13) Ishidate, M., Jr., et al. Chromosome aberration tests with Chinese hamster cells in vitro with and without metabolic activation: a comparative study on mutagens and carcinogens. Archives of Toxicology. Suppl. 4 (1980). p. 41-44
(14) Ishidate, M., Jr., et al. Chromosome tests with 134 compounds on Chinese hamster cells in vitro: a screening for chemical carcinogens. Mutation Research. Vol. 48 (1977). p. 337-353
(15) Crane, S.C., et al. The effect of chronic sodium benzoate consumption on brain monamines and spontaneous activity in rats. Nutrition Reports International. Vol. 32, no. 1 (July 1985). p. 169-177
(16) Fanelli, G.M., et al. Relative toxicity of chlortetracycline and sodium benzoate after oral administration to rats. Archives Internationales de Pharmacodynamie et de Therapie. Vol. 144, nos. 1-2 (1963). p. 120-125
(17) Fujitani, T. Short-term effect of sodium benzoate in F344 rats and B6C3F1 mice. Toxicology Letters. Vol. 69 (1993). p. 171-179
(18) Vogt, T, et al. Sodium benzoate-induced acute leukocytoclastic vasculitis with unusual clinical appearance. Archives of Dermatology. Vol. 135, no. 6 (June 1999). p. 726-727
(19) Xing, W., et al. A comparison of SCE test in human lymphocytes and Vicia faba: a hopeful technique using plants to detect mutagens and carcinogens. Mutation Research. Vol. 241 (1990). p. 109-113
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(21) Kowalewski, K. Abnormal pattern in tissue phospholipids and potassium produced in rats by dietary sodium benzoate, protective action of glycine. Archives Internationales de Pharmacodynamie et de Therapie. Vol. 124, nos. 3-4 (1960). p. 275-280.
(22) Deuel, H.J., Jr, et al. Sorbic acid as a fungistatic agent for foods. I. Harmlessness of sorbic acid as a dietary component. Food Research. Vol. 19 (1954). p. 1-12
(23) Lahti, A. Non-immunologic contact urticaria. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. Vol. 60, suppl. 91 (1980). p. 3-49
(24) Niinimaki, A. Scratch-chamber tests in food handler dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis. Vol. 16 (1987). p. 11-20
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(26) Litton Bionetics, Inc. Mutagenic evaluation of compound FDA 71-37, sodium benzoate. Unpublished report PB-245-453/6. NTIS PB 24553. US Food and Drug Administration, 1974
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(28) Opgrande, J.L., et al. Benzoic acid. In: Kirk-Othmer encyclopedia of chemical technology. 4th ed. Vol. 4. John Wiley and Sons, 1992. p. 110-112
(29) US National Library of Medicine. Sodium benzoate. Last revision date: 2002-01-14. In: Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB). CHEMpendium. [CD-ROM]. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Also available at: <>
(30) Field, P. Dust explosions. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, 1982. p. 217
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(34) Dean, J.A. Lange's handbook of chemistry. 15th ed. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1999. p. 3.49
(35) Syracuse Research Corporation. Interactive LogKow (KowWin) Database Demo [online]. Date unknown. Available at: <>
(36) Schweitzer, P.A. Corrosion resistance tables: metals, nonmetals, coatings, mortars, plastics, elastomers and linings, and fabrics. 4th ed. Part C, P-Z. Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1995. p. 2609-2612
(37) Corrosion data survey: metals section. 6th ed. National Association of Corrosion Engineers, 1985. p. 112-16 to 113-16
(38) Pruett, K.M. Chemical resistance guide for elastomers II: a guide to chemical resistance of rubber and elastomeric compounds. Compass Publications, 1994. p. C 332 to C 337
(39) Corrosion data survey: nonmetals section. 5th ed. National Association of Corrosion Engineers, 1983. p. 313 (1-14)
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Review/Preparation Date: 2004-04-08

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