Hydrogen Cyanide

Definition - What does Hydrogen Cyanide mean?

Hydrogen Cyanide, often known as Prussic Acid, is an extremely poisonous and highly volatile organic compound with the chemical formula HCN. In aqueous solution it is known as Hydrocyanic Acid. It is basically a colorless liquid with a boiling point slightly greater than room temperature. The acidic organic compound was discovered in 1782 by K.W. Scheele. It has density of 0.688 gram per cubic cm at 20 degree Celsius, a freezing point of -10 degree Celsius and a boiling point of 25.7 degree Celsius. A mixture of the acid vapors and air explodes when ignited; it yields H2O, N2 and CO2 when it burns with air.

Petropedia explains Hydrogen Cyanide

Hydrogen Cyanide occurs in an aqueous acidic form (weak acid) that gets decomposed upon storage in the presence of impurities. The organic derivatives of the acid are called nitriles and the salts are known as cyanides. During the processing of ore, deratization, galvanization of metals and disinsectization, the poisoning of the acid and its compounds takes place.

When this acid is inhaled by the human body, it blocks the respiratory enzyme cytochrome oxidase and results in the starvation of oxygen in the tissues. The symptoms of Hydrogen Cyanide poisoning could be the irritation of asthenia, mucous membranes, vertigo, vomiting and nausea. These symptoms are followed by severe respiratory disorders like infrequent breathing, deep breathing, and painful dyspnea. It finally leads to slow breathing and respiratory arrest.

The severe or chronic poisoning can be judged by headaches, low arterial pressure and fatigue. In electrocardiograms (ECGs) the changes can be observed and the sugar level reduced in the blood, resulting in an increase in the content of other elements such as lactic acid and hemoglobin. The victims are required to be given immediate first aid and taken to fresh air. To avoid poisoning, preventive measures must be taken which include the use protective garment, observation of the safety rules and periodic medical-examinations.

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