Thursday, July 3, 2014

Facts about Cyanide

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

1. What is cyanide?

Cyanide is any compound containing CN.  It is either 

Chemical warfare military exercise
  • Inorganic, such as Sodium Cyanide and Calcium Cyanide, used in metallurgy (e.g. gold extraction, hardening of iron and steel, and electroplating.
  • Organic, such as methyl cyanide, known also as Nitriles.  Cyanogenic glycosides occur in many plants and are released as hydrogen cyanide, such as in cassava, and wild cherry. 
Here is a simple way of preparing cassava before boiling. Be sure to keep the pot's cover open when boiling until the tuber is well cooked. 

2. Do we take cyanide in our bodies unknowingly without apparently getting sick?
Yes, from the following:
  • Certain fruits, vegetables and root crops which contain natural organic cyanide compounds.
  • Cereal flours, such as pandesal, cakes and pastries.
  • Ham, bacon and sausages
  • Cocoa, and many cocoa and chocolate products
Tolerable levels have been set for raw and processed foods by the Bureau of Foods and Drugs. Acceptable daily intake and maximum residue limits of hydrogen cyanide, as well as pesticides, have been set by FAO.

3. What is cyanide poisoning?
Poisoning is through inhalation of the volatile hydrogen cyanide (HCN), or ingestion of cyanide compounds.  Cyanide inhibits the oxidative  processes of the cells.  In short, it deprives the body of oxygen.  Thus the symptoms are dizziness, nausea, staggering, unconsciousness, followed by death.  Gas chambers work on this principle. 

4. Are there cases of natural cyanide poisoning, meaning from eating plants which produce their own cyanide?
Yes.  Cassava or tapioca has the highest cyanide level among local plants. That is why it is advisable not to allow cassava to over-mature since it accumulates more cyanide in its tubers, and to plant only the varieties known to be edible.  When cooking, it is advisable to remove the cover of the pot to let the CN to escape.  Cassava poisoning is not uncommon, especially among children.  Pesticides from cassava is an old folk remedy against common insects.

5. How are cyanides produced in nature? 

  • Cyanides are produced by certain bacteria, fungi, and algae and are found in a number of plants. 
  • Cyanides are found in substantial amounts in certain seeds and fruit stones, e.g., those of apricots, apples, and peaches.
  • In plants, cyanides are usually bound to sugar molecules in the form of cyanogenic glycosides, to defend the plant against herbivores. 
  • The Madagascar bamboo Cathariostachys madagascariensis produces cyanide as a deterrent to grazing. In response, the golden bamboo lemur, which eats the bamboo, has developed a high tolerance to cyanide. Tolerance on lower level is also found in the bamboo-dependent panda. 
  • Millipedes (Class Diplopoda, Phylum Arthropoda) exude cyanide when threatened, so that children should not be playing with millipedes.
  • Pyrolysis and combustion product. Hydrogen cyanide is produced by the combustion or pyrolysis of certain materials under oxygen-deficient conditions. For example, it can be detected in the exhaust of internal combustion engines and tobacco smoke. Certain plastics release hydrogen cyanide, other than dioxin, the most dangerous man-made toxin, when heated or burnt.
6. What are other facts ordinary citizens need to know about cyanide? 

  • The body has the capability to detoxify cyanide at tolerable levels.  Many pesticides on the other hand tend to accumulate in the body such as DDT. 
  • HCN is volatile and has a low boiling point.  Washing of suspected cyanide-treated vegetables will reduce the toxic level. 
  • Cyanide as pesticide is not in the accredited list of pesticide in the Philippines.  However, its use among farmers dates many years ago. 
  • Mine tailing trained to streams and river contain cyanide which farmers take advantage in watering vegetables, and irrigating crops down stream. 

  • Cyanide has been identified as the culprit in the decrease in fish catch in ponds, lakes, rivers, estuaries.  It is suspected to be the cause of death of farm animals, and undiagnosed human illnesses.   
  • The cyanide radical CN- has been identified in interstellar space. The cyanide radical (called cyanogen) is used to measure the temperature of interstellar gas clouds.
  • Cyanide gas was used by the Nazis in concentration camps. It is among the gases used in chemical warfare to the present. 

     Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Internet

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