Introduction to Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN)
Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) is a colorless and extremely poisonous gas that boils just above room temperature. With its distinctive bitter odor, it is often used as an inhalation rodenticide and human poison. Historical events such as World War I and II have used Hydrogen Cyanide as a poison and chemical weapon. However, it also has practical application uses, such as being the precursor to many chemical compounds ranging from polymers to pharmaceuticals.
Hydrogen Cyanide is a systemic chemical asphyxiant. It interferes with iron-containing respiratory enzymes and the normal use of oxygen by nearly every organ of the human body. This toxic gas can be rapidly fatal and can also mix with air to form explosive conditions within a facility. However, a large proportion of people cannot detect Hydrogen Cyanide; the odor does not provide adequate warning of hazardous concentrations. Proper monitoring and detection methods are absolutely necessary for any industry working with Hydrogen Cyanide.
When present in high concentrations, Hydrogen Cyanide may produce these symptoms:
- Eye, nose, throat, respiratory irritation
- Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in lung tissue)
- Oxygen deficiency
- Systemic toxicity
When researching HCN gas detection solutions, facility managers should be aware of the following HCN exposure limits:
|10 ppm TWA||OSHA PEL (General Industry)|
|10 ppm TWA||OSHA PEL (Construction Industry)|
|10 ppm TWA||OSHA PEL (Maritime)|
|10 ppm TWA||ACGIH TLV|
|5 ppm TWA||NIOSH REL|
|50 ppm||NIOSH IDLH|