What is the role of industrial exposure in the etiology of cyanide toxicity?

Updated: May 30, 2020
  • Author: Inna Leybell, MD; Chief Editor: Michael A Miller, MD  more...
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Countless industrial sources of cyanides exist. Cyanides are used particularly in the metal trades, mining, jewelry manufacturing, dyeing, photography, and agriculture. Specific industrial processes involving cyanide include metal cleaning, reclaiming, or hardening; fumigation; electroplating; and photo processing. [5] In addition, industry uses cyanides in the manufacture of plastics, as reactive intermediates in chemical synthesis, and as solvents (in the form of nitriles).

Exposure to salts and cyanogens occasionally causes poisonings; however, a significant risk for multiple casualties occurs when these products come into contact with mineral acids because HCN gas is produced. A mass casualty incident may develop in an industrial accident in which cyanogen chloride comes in contact with water (eg, during fire-fighting). Containers of cyanogen chloride may rupture or explode if exposed to high heat or following prolonged storage.

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