Cyanides How Toxic Are They? Are All Cyanides Deadly?

Chemistry, Medicine
Potassium and sodium cyanides are iconic poisons. Murder mystery movies frequently feature one of these two substances as the cause of death. Their chemical formulas may be written more than one way. Most simplistically, they are KCN and NaCN. K stands for potassium (kalium), and Na stands for sodium (natrium). C is for carbon. N is for nitrogen. Another way of writing the chemical formulas of these substances is, K–C≡N and Na–C≡N. Both of these chemical compounds dissolve in water. This makes them especially dangerous, since if consumed, they can enter the bloodstream and travel to all of the bodies’ cells. KCN → K+ + CN- NaCN → Na+ + CN- Cyanides How Toxic? Organic Nitriles Organic nitriles are a kind of cyanide. For instance, acetonitrile is written, CH3CN But…
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The Hydrolysis of Acetonitrile or Methyl Cyanide

Hydrolysis of acetonitrile (the adding of water to its triple bond) is a useful synthetic procedure. Alkali metals such as sodium (Na) and potassium (K) attached to the cyanide group (carbon and nitrogen joined by three bonds, ‒C≡N or -CN for short) is deadly poisonous. One factor making it so poisonous is most inorganic cyanides ionize in water. Dissolving cyanides separates the cation (for example, Na⁺) from the cyanide ion, ‒CN⁻. When an organic group is attached to ‒CN, the group is not ionized, even if the organic is water soluble. In such a case, the compound is called a nitrile. Nitriles are generally much safer to handle.* What some might call methyl cyanide, CH₃CN, is more accurately acetonitrile. Why acetonitrile? Hydrolysis of the ‒CN group produces acetic acid. Hydrolysis…
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