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topic 11516

Cyanide, its uses and its dangers


 

Q. What is copper cyanide, and is it dangerous or poisonous?

Carole Smith
- Cullman, Alabama


 

A. Copper cyanide is CuCN. Copper cyanide is an important industrial chemical for electroplating but cyanide is a very powerful and very fast acting poison.

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


 

A. Just keep in mind that a single drop of cyanide solution accidentally splashed into your eye could kill you.

Alfonso Hernandez
- Aurora, Colorado


 

A. While cyanide solution is very poisonous, with somewhere around 0.4 tenths of a gram, if ingested, will cause death, I don't think that a single drop in the eye is a death sentence.

With about 20 drops to the milliliter, and a specific gravity of 1.2, a drop would weigh around 0.06 grams, and not all of that drop is cyanide.

Of course, a drop of cyanide solution would really burn, and should be washed out with plenty of water. Safety goggles [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or a face shield [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] should be worn by operating personnel.

pooky
tom pullizi signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


 

A. I'm sorry guys, but as far as I know the "drop-in-the-eye" test was performed on a K-9. So I read in a very old chemistry book by Puig.

Alfonso Hernandez
- Aurora, Colorado


December 8, 2009

A. Because the eye socket is a mucosa the absorption of a toxin is almost instantaneous if direct contact is made, dependent on the MPE of the chemical, death will be imminent.

Robert E. Pittengerr Sr.
- Norfolk, Virginia


sidebar

These contradictory opinions are only guesses, Tom, until we do some animal testing. You haven't seen any animals we might use lately, have you?    :-)

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

I know you are only kidding, Ted. You have an abiding love for cute, furry critters:-)

tom's dog Pooky tom pullizzi signature

Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania

W.C. Fields can't have been all bad :-)

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

 

! Ted probably won't admit it, but many of us "old timers" (and still living) have handled cyanide without gloves, etc. with no ill effects. As Tom said, it's the fact that cyanide is extremely alkaline, like lye, that makes it dangerous to handle. I suggest that the dog had other complications...

George Brackett III
- Utica, New York



George,

Wait a minute, the cyanide is dangerous to handle because it is a deadly poison, the alkalinity would make it burn too. Yes, I have handled cyanobrik with my bare fingers, it was a very irresponsible thing to do. I used to crawl and jump around automatic machines while they were running too, which is Russian Roulette only more so.

DON'T HANDLE CYANIDE WITHOUT PROPER PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING! DON'T SUFFER OTHERS TO DO SO!

DON'T GET IN THE WAY OF AN AUTOMATIC HOIST, NOT EVEN ONCE!

ALWAYS CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES AND BOOTS WHEN LEAVING A PLATING SHOP AND RE-ENTERING A HOME OR CAR OR WHATEVER. DON'T DRAG CYANIDE AND OTHER CHEMICALS INTO THE HOME WHERE OTHERS CAN BE EXPOSED (WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE, WHICH IS EVEN WORSE)!


Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania



I certainly admit it, George -- the truth shall set us free. Yes, some people even used to wash their hands in cyanide tanks because it is 'the world's best cleaner'; then after rinsing, dip them into an acid tank to neutralize the traces of cyanide so they wouldn't get festering sores at their cuticles and cuts.

What I don't do is advocate it; many people have died of cyanide poisoning in plating shops. I count myself lucky for not being one of those many. I came close on two occasions -- having been sent out as a young field engineer to work alone (never acceptable), while completely untrained in the dangers of cyanide.

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


October 1, 2012

Q. What will happen if cyanide/KCN is touched with tongue (put on tongue)? Does anyone die instantly?

akash babu ram
- delhi


October 1, 2012

A. Hi Akash. Unless it is an extremely small amount, yes, they die surely -- quickly, although not quite instantly. Why do you ask?

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



April 13, 2015

Q. Who and WHY does anyone have access to cyanide??!?

Lorena Ann Meyer-Shipley
STECO - Arlington, Washington USA


April 2015

A. Hi Lorena. Your question is awfully vague.

Cyanide is used in (necessary for) silver plating and brass plating, and is useful in some types of copper plating and zinc plating. It's used for certain jewelry cleaning operations. It has traditionally been used a fumigant for silos but, that not being my field, I don't know if it still is. It was at one time used as rat poison and the main ingredient in California's gas chambers.

But it is also present in apples, lima beans, and almonds -- It's been estimated that 10 pounds of lima beans would constitute a fatal dose. So who has access to lima beans and why? :-)

Now it's your turn: WHY do you ask? Thanks!

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


April 16, 2015

A. Lorena,
There are an awful lot of chemical compounds that can be utilized to perform useful tasks, but can cause tremendous harm to biological tissue if handled improperly. Some such substances can be found in the cleaner isle of any grocery store.

Cyanide has a pop culture reputation as a poison, but since it merely refers to a carbon atom and nitrogen atom with a triple covalent bond between them, it's not really an exotic thing at all.

ray kremer
Ray Kremer
Stellar Solutions, Inc.
supporting advertiser
McHenry, Illinois
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April 17, 2015

A. Some articles of commerce that are unquestionably harmful, like tobacco for instance, are readily available. Substantially all of the cyanide used is utilized in relatively benign, useful industrial processes, even though the possibility for nefarious use exists.

tom_rochester
Tom Rochester
Plating Systems & Technologies, Inc.  
supporting advertiser
Jackson, Michigan, USA
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