What is Potassium Cyanide?

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What is Potassium Cyanide?
Potassium cyanide is crystalline inorganic compound that is colorless. It is referred to as KCN, which is also its molecular formula, and looks very similar to sugar. And just like sugar, potassium cyanide is water-soluble. Others also refer to it as hydrocyanic acid potassium salt.

KCN or potassium cyanide is said to be a stable inorganic compound but has compatibility issues with materials like iodine, peroxides, acids, alkaloids, permanganates, chloral hydrate, and metallic salts. It is also very sensitive to moisture and light. When KCN has contact with an acid, it will result to a highly toxic HCN gas or hydrogen cyanide. The smell of this toxic gas is similar to bitter almonds but many people won’t be able to detect such odor.

Much of potassium cyanide’s use is in the mining of gold, in electroplating, and in organic synthesis. The jewelry industry also makes use of KCN especially in chemical buffing and gliding, but to a lesser extent. It is also said that entomologists also take advantage of KCN’s toxicity by using it as killing agent for collecting jars. Because of KCN, many insects will die almost instantly. So with KCN’s help, there will be less damage to specimens that maybe very fragile.

Potassium cyanide may be produced in two ways. One is to treat HCN with potassium hydroxide and the other is to treat formamide with potassium hydroxide. Either way, the resulting potassium cyanide is very toxic and could cause death when inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin. When inside the body, potassium cyanide or KCN will inhibit cellular respiration. This process prevents the body to oxidize food for energy and will go under lactic acidosis in which the body tissues won’t be able to use up available oxygen in the blood. This condition is highly fatal and any person poisoned by KCN may die in less than an hour. The usual cause of death for KCN poisoning is cardiac arrest.

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