Sodium cyanide (chemical formula: NaCN), also known as cyanogram, is a white solid chemical that is soluble in water and slightly soluble in alcohol. It has a slightly bitter almond odour, similar to that of hydrogen cyanide, but it can also be odourless when completely dry. In its solid form, sodium cyanide decomposes when exposed to moisture, reacting with carbon dioxide and releasing highly toxic/flammable hydrogen cyanide gas.
Sodium cyanide has several applications including:
The routes of exposure for sodium cyanide include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact.
Just a few breaths of highly concentrated sodium cyanide can cause instant collapse and breathing to stop. Other symptoms of overexposure include headaches, dizziness, swearing, nausea, irregular heartbeat, unconsciousness, convulsions, coma and death. Those with already impaired respiratory function or kidney damage, may have their condition worsen on inhalation of the substance.
The lethal dose of sodium cyanide is 250mg for adults. The substance can produce chemical burns in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract following ingestion. Symptoms of ingestion include increased salivation, nausea without vomiting, anxiety, confusion, vertigo, dizziness, stiffness of the lower jaw, convulsions, spasms, paralysis, coma and an irregular heartbeat.
Sodium cyanide is extremely irritating and corrosive to the skin, likely to cause second degree chemical burns and deep ulcers. Other symptoms of skin exposure include an itchy rash with blisters and scabs that may be prone to infection. Entry into the bloodstream can lead to other harmful effects and even death.
Direct eye contact with sodium cyanide may cause chemical burns. Sodium cyanide vapours and mists may also be extremely irritating. It is possible for toxic amounts to be absorbed through the eyes.
If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and ensure they are kept warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR (with a bag-valve mask device). Seek medical attention without delay.
If swallowed, prompt emergency response is vital. Provide oxygen to the patient and place them in a coma position. If the patient is unconscious but breathing, provide oxygen and amyl nitrite through a respirator. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR (with a bag-valve mask device). If the patient shows no symptoms, the only treatment required will be to decontaminate the patient. Rescuers will require protection from any airborne cyanide. Seek medical attention without delay.
If skin exposure occurs, immediately remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and flush the affected area with plenty of water, using a safety shower if available. Seek medical attention without delay.
If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention without delay.
Emergency eyewash units and safety showers should be accessible in the event of chemical exposure and adequate ventilation should also be available (local exhaust is usually required).
The PPE recommended when handling sodium cyanide includes safety glasses with unperforated side shields, chemical goggles, elbow length PVC gloves, respirators, overalls, protective suits and safety footwear/gumboots. Skin cleansing and barrier creams are also recommended when skin exposure occurs.
Due to the toxic nature of sodium cyanide, it is important that users review the SDS for the recommended safety handling procedures that must be undertaken when handling sodium cyanide. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help.