Cyanide Facts – Early Signs & Symptoms

In this article, let’s have a look at some of the Cyanide Facts for your general Health & Physical fitness. But, first, let’s define what Cyanide is.

To enumerate, for the Cyanide facts, it is a rapidly acting, potentially deadly chemical that can exist in various forms. Not to mention, Cyanide can be a colorless gas, such as;

  • hydrogen cyanide (HCN), or
  • cyanogen chloride (CNCl), or
  • a crystal form such as sodium cyanide (NaCN),
  • or potassium cyanide (KCN).

Not forgetting, Cyanide sometimes is described as having a “bitter almond” smell, but it does not always give off an odor, and not everyone can detect this odor.

For your information, Cyanide is also known by the military designations AC (for hydrogen cyanide) and CK (for cyanogen chloride).

Cyanide Facts
  • Save
CyanoGuard is making moves to end cyanide poisoning

Cyanide Facts About Source

According to Wikipedia, Cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the group C≡N. This group, known as the cyano group, consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom.

In inorganic cyanides, the cyanide group is present as the anion CN⁻. Salts such as sodium cyanide and potassium cyanide are highly toxic.

Equally important, Cyanide is contained in cigarette smoke and the combustion products of synthetic materials such as plastics. Combustion products are substances given off when things burn.

In manufacturing, cyanide is used to make paper, textiles, and plastics. It is present in the chemicals used to develop photographs. Cyanide salts are used in metallurgy for electroplating, metal cleaning, and removing gold from its ore. Cyanide gas is used to exterminate pests and vermin in ships and buildings.

If accidentally swallowed, chemicals found in acetonitrile-based products that are used to remove artificial nails can produce cyanide when metabolized by the body.

Hydrogen cyanide, under the name Zyklon B, was used as a genocidal agent by the Germans in World War II.

Reports have indicated that during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, hydrogen cyanide gas may have been used along with other chemical agents against the inhabitants of the Kurdish city of Halabja in northern Iraq.

Cyanide Facts About Exposure

  • You could be exposed to cyanide by breathing air, drinking water, eating food, or touching soil that contains cyanide.
  • Cyanide enters water, soil, or air as a result of both natural processes and industrial activities. When present in the air, it is usually in the form of gaseous hydrogen cyanide.
  • Smoking cigarettes is probably one of the major sources of cyanide exposure for people who do not work in cyanide-related industries.

Cyanide Facts on Metabolic Mechanism

Notably, the extent of poisoning caused by cyanide depends on the amount of cyanide a person is exposed to, the route of exposure, and the length of time that a person is exposed.

In reality, breathing cyanide gas causes the most harm, but swallowing cyanide can be toxic as well. In fact, Cyanide gas is most dangerous in enclosed places where the gas will be trapped.

Below are more facts about the Cyanide Gas. Such as:

  • evaporates and disperses quickly in open spaces, making it less harmful outdoors.
  • is less dense than air; so it will rise.
  • prevents the cells of the body from using oxygen. When this happens, the cells die.
  • Cyanide is more harmful to the heart and brain than to other organs because the heart and brain use a lot of oxygen.
Sodium Cyanide Facts
  • Save
Sodium cyanide is an inorganic compound with the formula NaCN.

Cyanide Facts on Immediate Signs of Exposure

  • People exposed to a small amount of cyanide by breathing it, absorbing it through their skin, or eating foods that contain it may have some or all of the following signs and symptoms within minutes:
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Rapid breathing
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Restlessness
    • Weakness
  • Exposure to a large amount of cyanide by any route may cause these other health effects as well:
    • Convulsions
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Low blood pressure
    • Lung injury
    • Respiratory failure leading to death
    • Slow heart rate
  • Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to cyanide.

Additionally, there are cyanide facts to consider on long-term health effects of exposure. Whereby, Survivors of serious cyanide poisoning may develop heart, brain and nerve damage.

Cyanide Facts About General Protection

In the first place, since breathing it is likely to be the primary route of exposure to cyanide, leave the area where the cyanide gas was released and get to fresh air. Quickly moving to an area where fresh air is available is highly effective in reducing exposure to cyanide gas.

Generally, if the cyanide gas was released outdoors, move away from the area where it was released. And, if you cannot get out of the area where the cyanide gas was released, stay as low to the ground as possible.

Moreover, if the release of cyanide gas was indoors, get out of the building.

Secondly, if you are near a release of cyanide gas, emergency coordinators may tell you to either evacuate the area or “shelter in place.” Meaning that you ‘stay put and take cover’ inside a building.


  1. For more information on evacuation during a chemical emergency, see Facts About Evacuation.
  2. For more information on sheltering in place during a chemical emergency, see Facts About Sheltering in Place.

Removing your clothing

Quickly take off clothing that may have cyanide on it. Any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead of pulled over the head.

If you are helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas, and remove the clothing as quickly as possible.

Washing yourself

As quickly as possible, wash any cyanide from your skin with large amounts of soap and water. Washing with soap and water will help protect people from any chemicals on their bodies.

If you wear contacts, remove them and put them with the contaminated clothing. Do not put the contacts back in your eyes (even if they are not disposable contacts).

And, if you wear eyeglasses, wash them with soap and water. You can put your eyeglasses back on after you wash them.

Equally, if you are wearing jewelry that you can wash with soap and water, you can wash it and put it back on.

Disposing of your Clothes

After you have washed, place your clothing inside a plastic bag. Avoid touching contaminated areas of the clothing. If you can’t avoid touching contaminated areas, or you aren’t sure where the contaminated areas are, wear rubber gloves or turn the bag inside out and use it to pick up the clothes, inverting the bag over the clothes when you have all the clothes picked up.

An alternative method is to put the clothes in the bag using tongs, tool handles, sticks, or similar objects. Anything that touches the contaminated clothing should also be placed in the bag. If you wear contacts, put them in the plastic bag, too.

Seal the bag, and then seal that bag inside another plastic bag. Disposing of your clothing in this way will help protect you and other people from any chemicals that might be on your clothes.

When the local or state health department or emergency personnel arrive, tell them what you did with your clothes. The health department or emergency personnel will arrange for further disposal. Do not handle the plastic bags yourself.

For more information about cleaning your body and disposing of your clothes after a chemical release,

Cyanide Facts About Poisoning Treatment

Important to realize, Cyanide poisoning is treated with specific antidotes and supportive medical care in a hospital setting. Antidotes for cyanide poisoning are most useful if given as soon as possible after exposure.

As a matter of fact, Clinicians should treat suspected cases accordingly and not wait for laboratory confirmation. The most important thing is for victims to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Below are more useful and additional links.

  1. Food & Drinks Recipe Guides
  2. Health & Physical Fitness Guides 

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap