ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Hydrogen cyanide and its soluble salts are rapidly acting poisons which may cause death. Cyanide can affect the body if it is breathed as vapour or dust, a liquid is absorbed through skin or if it is swallowed. Symptoms of acute poisoning include weakness, heaviness of limbs, headache, giddiness, nausea, vomiting, respiratory irritation and the breath may smell of bitter almonds. In addition, symptoms of chronic poisoning include gasping for breath, convulsions and loss of consciousness.34

Laboratories where there is a risk of poisoning should have a cyanide antidote kit and a source of oxygen readily available. Do not give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a person suspected of cyanide poisoning. The use of amyl nitrate for treatment is not recommended.

A cyanide antidote kit should contain:
· a management of cyanide poisoning leaflet
· Guedels or Brooks airway
· elasticised tourniquet
· gastric lavage set
· disposable intravenous cannulae
· 2ml, 10 ml and 20 ml sterile disposable syringes and needles
· heparinised and fluoride blood sample tubes
· skin preparation swabs
· sterile dressing, adhesive tap and scissors
· dextrose 50% B.P.C. (2 x 50 ml)
· 40 ml (2 x 20 ml ampoules) Kelocyanor
The expiry date of items should be periodically tested. The antidote should only be administered by a medical practitioner.58



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