Cyanide is a highly toxic chemical that can inhibit cellular respiration, the process by which cells produce energy.
When cyanide enters the body, it reacts with enzymes in the cells that are responsible for breaking down glucose and other nutrients to produce energy.
Cyanide prevents these enzymes from functioning properly, which means that cells cannot produce the energy they need to survive. As a result, cyanide can be lethal in high doses, as it can cause cells throughout the body to die from energy deprivation.
Cyanide inhibits cellular respiration by binding irreversibly to the iron ion in the heme group of cytochrome c oxidase, which is the terminal enzyme in the electron transport chain.
This prevents the enzyme from accepting electrons from the previous electron carrier, halting the flow of electrons through the chain and ultimately blocking the production of ATP, the cell’s energy currency.
Without ATP, cells cannot carry out essential metabolic processes and eventually die.
What are the uses of cyanide?
- Gold mining: Cyanide is used to extract gold from ore, a process called “gold cyanidation.”
- Electroplating: Cyanide is used as an electrolyte in some electroplating processes.
- Pesticides: Some pesticides contain cyanide, which is toxic to insects and other pests.
- Dyes: Cyanide is used in the production of some dyes.
- Chemical manufacturing: Cyanide is used as a starting material in the production of a number of chemicals, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, and textiles.
How cyanide is stored
Cyanide should be stored in a secure, well-ventilated area, away from heat sources and ignition sources.
It is usually stored in specially designed containers or drums that are labeled with appropriate warning labels.
In some cases, cyanide may be stored in a locked cabinet or room to prevent unauthorized access. It is also important to ensure that cyanide is stored away from food, water, and other household items to prevent accidental poisoning. If you are handling cyanide in the workplace, it is important to follow all safety protocols and guidelines to ensure that it is stored and handled safely.
How cyanide occurs in nature
- Certain plants: Some plants, such as cassava, almonds, and lima beans, contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide when the plant is damaged or ingested.
- Fungi: Some fungi produce cyanide as a byproduct of metabolism.
- Bacteria: Some bacteria produce cyanide as a byproduct of metabolism or as a defense mechanism.
- Forest fires: Cyanide can be produced during forest fires when nitrogen compounds in plant material are burned.
- Volcanoes: Cyanide can be released into the air during volcanic eruptions.
It is important to note that cyanide concentrations in the environment are typically quite low. However, cyanide can be released into the environment as a result of industrial processes, such as gold mining and chemical production, which can lead to elevated levels of cyanide in the air, water, and soil.