Cyanide Information



Other Names

Cyanide Ion; Isocyanide; Nitrile Anion

Chemical Formula


CAS Number

57 – 12 – 5

Industry Uses

Mining; Pest Control; Metal Cleaning; Steel Manufacture

Health Risks

Irritation; Histotoxic hypoxia;

Cyanide MSDS

What is Cyanide?

Cyanide is used in many chemical and refining processes. It is found in effluent from electroplating and metal cleaning operations, coke ovens, steel manufacturing facilities, and gas scrubbers. Cyanide is used for the mining of gold and silver, illegal fishing and poaching, pest control, and it has a history as a human poison. Although cyanide can be safely removed by alkaline chlorination, its acute toxicity to aquatic life necessitates routine monitoring.

Cyanide Exposure and Health Risks

Cyanide is toxic by skin absorption, ingestion, and inhalation. Contact to the skin can cause blistering and inflammation. Exposure to the eye can result in corneal damage and blindness. Inhalation will produce irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and/or the respiratory tract. Cyanide acts by inhibiting the fourth complex of the electron transport chain by binding to iron. It prevents the transport of electrons from cytochrome c to oxygen. This disrupts the electron transport chain which prevents the cell from aerobically producing ATP for energy. It then causes histotoxic hypoxia which severely affects the heart and central nervous system. Symptoms include nerve damage, thyroid problems, lung damage, unconsciousness, and death.


The table below summarizes the most-recent standards.




0.2 mg/L

Primary Standards – Max Contaminant Level


Sources: EPA

Measuring Cyanide

Dissolved Cyanide concentration in water can be measured in units of parts per million (ppm). We carry kits from CHEMetrics that determine cyanide levels in water from 0-1 ppm. All of our cyanide products can be viewed HERE.

These Cyanide Kits are designed to accurately measure the cyanide levels in water using the Isonicotinic-Barbituric Acid Method.

The K-3810 Cyanide Kit is used to measure cyanide levels from 0-0.1 and 0.1-1 ppm.

The K-3803 Cyanide Vacu-Vials Kit is used to measure cyanide levels from 0-0.4ppm.

Contact us for help choosing the right product for your application