5 Types of Cyanide – Formula – Uses – Effects

Now days, health become one of the most distressing problems around the world. People’s health keep decreasing day by day without they realized. A routine like breathing an air or even consuming food that should have given them a lot of merit, in fact it stab them by giving another impact by just harming their bodies. What we should aware of is actually the compositions that used or simply we should know what kind of materials that can benefiting us and which one can harming us. Thus, here we will discuss one of those materials that exist in our surroundings, and can give both harm and good to us.

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What is Cyanide?

First be found in 1889, cyanide was famous around that time from mining site, helped to improve the gold mining over 50% to 80%. Many cyanide was plant around the area and it made a great success for those who chase after the income. But as the efficiency goes up it proportionally direct to its impact. The residue from mining site that contains the cyanide goes directly to river in the area, being contaminated, it consumed by the people around, but despite this conditions there is no health and environmental issues that rise up because of this.

As the world grown, but not with the people, the used of cyanide no longer exist to help those in need, but it change to harm people even those who are innocence. When the world war one until two were broke up, people use cyanide for a war tool, as a poisoning weapon. It even used as a genocide weapon in Middle Eastern war and the Jonestown suicides.

Cyanide Characteristic

Cyanide is a compound form of carbon nitrogen or CN, is made of combining triple atom of carbon to a nitrogen atom. It has atom number -1 or CN. Cyanide is one of those cyano group, it is a group consists of those carbon mixed with nitrogen. It can be combined with other atom or group, for example when it combine with hydrogen, it forms hydrogen cyanide. When it combine with metal, it bonds to metal cyanide. And when it join with alkyl group it forms nitrile.

Cyanide can be found naturally from approximately more than 500 plants. It even can be found in an agricultural plants, such as cassavas, potatoes, lima beans, almonds, bamboos, corns, and cottons. Some fruits like cherries, pears, peaches, and plums also found to be able produce this cyanide. The amount of cyanide contains in these food is around 100 mg to the higher 300 mg that contains in wild cherry.

Micro-organism also produced this cyanide. Most of them are fungi, algae, and bacteria. In 1981, scientists found that insect also produced cyanide, these one comes from insect family, such as moths, butterflies, beetles, centipedes, and millipedes, but most of this insects create cyanide in order for defense system. The most easy recognize cyanide can be found in table salt, coffee, car exhaust, cigarette, and mining industry. Indeed, here are the types of cyanide:

  1. Hydrogen Cyanide

Hydrogen cyanide often called as prussic acid has a chemical formula HCN. It is created from forming a triple bond carbon to nitrogen. It is normally has pale blue color and at room temperature it is colorless liquid, in high temperature it is colorless and take a form of gas. It is the most dangerous form of cyanide because it is extremely toxic and flammable. It can be found in polymers.

Hydrogen cyanide has almond scent with a little bit of bitter scent. Mostly use as chemical weapon. Hydrogen cyanide often used to kill rabbits, rodents, and some predators. The hydrogen cyanide vapour used to fumigate buildings and ships.

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  1. Sodium Cyanide

Sodium cyanide formula is NaCN, it is categorized as inorganic compound. It has characteristics as solid with white color, non-flammable, has a bitter like almond scent and it is soluble in water. It has affinity with metals. Mostly used for mining industry, especially gold mining. Sodium cyanide is formed from combine hydrogen cyanide with sodium hydroxide:

HCN + NaOH → NaCN + H2O

When sodium cyanide react with acid it will form hydrogen cyanide that makes sodium cyanide salt considered as highly risk for toxication. It will obstruct respiration system by decreasing oxygen utilization.

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  1. Potassium Cyanide

Potassium cyanide formula is KCN. It has a similar appearance as sugar, colorless crystalline salt. It has high solubility in water. It is described as sharp and has burning taste. Mostly used in gold mining, organic synthesis, and electroplating. It is also used in jewelry production as gilding and buffing materials.

There is two way to create KCN, first by combining hydrogen cyanide with potassium hydroxide


Second, by combining formamide and potassium hydroxide


In an accient way, it has been done by decomposing potassium ferrocyanide

K4[Fe(CN)6] → 4 KCN + FeC2 + N2

Potassium cyanide also consider as high toxic as it also forming hydrogen cyanide when it is hydrolized. It will prevent our bodies to produce important nutrition from food.

You may also read: Potassium Sulfate Uses

  1. Cyanogen Chloride

Cyanogen chloride formula is NCCL. It is formed by single bond of carbon to chlorine and triple bond of carbon to nitrogen. It is produced by combining sodium cyanide to chlorine through oxidation process with intermediate of cyanogen ((CN)2).

NaCN + Cl2 → ClCN + NaCl

It is colorless and take a form as liquified gas and non-flammable It has sharp scent and is heavier than air. Mostly used for biochemical application. It was used as chemical weapon as it is highly toxic especially when it has direct contact with eyes and respiration system.

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Cyanide Use in Daily Life

Indeed, out of the types of cyanide, here are the cyanide uses in daily life:

1. Mining” state=”closed

Cyanide uses for mining was famous in the mid of 80s. Before cyanide was discovered, people used mercury but this method consider dangerous thus people started to use cyanide instead. Cyanide use in mining process can help to dissolve gold and silver form rocks. Gold and silver cannot dissolve easily with water, cyanide helps to release gold and silver from its ore. With the helping of oxidation, the oxygen helps to dissolve this from metal, because it helps stabilize them. The amount of cyanide used in mining process is less than 350 mg or 0,035% ( as 100% NaCN).

Cyanide that often used as mining material is sodium cyanide. The reaction for gold mining is

4 Au + 8 NaCN + O2 + 2H2O → 4 Na[Au(CN)2] + 4 NaOH

The residue coming form this mining proved to contamine the area around mining site. Because of the after impact from using this cyanide harmin human and animals species, cyanide now consider as dangerous material that in some countries have been banned.

2. Industry

In manufacture, cyanide often used for producing textile, paper, and plastic. It usually based on hydrogen cyanide that derivative into several compounds, such as adiponytrile for nylon manufacture, methil methacrylite in polymer manufacture, and methionine as a material for food addictive. The uses of cyanide for plastic actually give a harm because if it burns, the gas coming from the plastic will form hydrogen cyanide which has characteristic as toxic.

Even if there is a lot of cases people faint because they breath an air mixed with plastic combustion, the use of cyanide for olastic still high. One way to prevent this cases happen again is by avoiding to burn plastic. Other used from cyanide is for electroplating and photography as it becomes a good stabilisize metal ions from dissolving. Electroplating often use in jewelry production. Sodium ferrocyanide often used in petrolleum industry as removal of mercaptans.

3. Medical

Cyanide definitely consider as toxic and can harming human even animals, but cyanide in fact also can be used in medical area. In the world war I, japanese physicians used copper cyanide as a treatment for tuberculosis and leperosy. In modern days, the use of cyanide is mostly use for pressecreasing blood pressure, it has a fast effect. It also used as vasodilator in vascular research. Cyanide aslo contained in vitmain B12 to control blood cells. Cyanide salt also used as a material for table salt.

4. Pest control

Cyanide salt has been used to fumigate rats and ants. In new Zealand, its mostly  used to kill possums as they spread tuberculosis virus. For killing possum, cyanide used as paste or capsul.  Sometimes people use cyanide to capture fish to be sold in aquarium in an exotic fish market. This habbit categorized as dangerous and destructive because the location to capture the fish is near coral that sometimes it damaging the coral. This action most happen in Phillipine, Indonesia, and Pasific.

5. Interstellar

Cyanogen or cyanide radical often used in interstellar medium to measure interstellar temperature of gas clouds. Interstellar medium is a matter that exist between each stars in galaxy, it usually consists of gas, cosmic rays, and dust. it can be measured in ion, atom, and molecular form. The other type of cyanide that also found in interstellar is iso-propyl cyanide. It has been proved that cyanide is the most common metal molecules in space.

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Cyanide Effect

Cyanide can be categirized as poison for human when it is mixed with hydrogen forming hydrogen cyanide. As it can give lethal effect if human consumed it in a big amount. This toxic cyanide enter human bodies through respiration system. Other parts of human body that easily infected by cyanide are heart and central nervous. Mostly coming from car exhaust and industry residue.

It also can be created from burning polymer products that contain nitrile for their material. This toxication happen because cells of an organism can no longer produce ATP. Cyanide enter to human body bloodstream. In small amount, cyanide changed into thiocyanate.  It easier for human body to processed, it is usually excreted in urine. In small amount it can combine with other elements can be bond to produced vitamin B12. It helps maintain nerve and red blood cells.

The symptom of this toxication in human can be seen as headache, dizziness, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, and vomiting. In longer effect it can occurred as slow heart rate, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and cardiac arrest. If one have been poisoned by cyanide the treatment can be done by removing clothing and washing their bodies and hair. If need usually patient will given two antidotes which are sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate.

In a chronic effect of cyanide can cause cardiac arrest, seizures, apnea, even coma and death if does not get the right treatment soon as possible. The low amount of cyanide that human body can take is as low as 1,5 mg/ kg body weight. Now days there are a lot of antidote legalized for treatment as standard, such as amyl nitrite, sodium nitrite, sodium thiosulfate, and the newest antidote found by U.S. government hydroxocobalamin.

Even if there is a prove that cyanide is toxic but there are still a lot of misconceptions of this cyanide going around until this day. But some of those were groundless and just simply an assumption. For those who still believe on this myths, here some fact that scientists brought to clear up this misunderstanding concept of cyanide:

  1. Not all forms of cyanide is toxic, means some of them safe for us. some of this admix cyanide can be used for the sake of human too.
  2. It exist naturally. Even if many derivative of cyanide is made by combining some chemical compounds but basically cyanide is produces naturally.
  3. It is different with those heavy metal, not cumulative and it is persist in environment.
  4. Should not confused with acid drainage.
  5. It is not radioactive or carcinogenic.
  6. It can be stored, manufactured, transported, and disposed in water.

People often confused with cyanide. Most of them think that cyanide is a poisonous element. There is nothing wrong with this mindset, but it should be clarified that cyanide is actually not really poisonous, the one which contain toxic material is actually the derivative compound of this cyanide. Cyanide even can be benefiting human if we now how to manage it well, in a right and safe way obviously. Hope this article about the types of cyanide will help you know more about cyanide.

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