MPC Fact Sheet
Published: November 5, 2004
What is Cyanide?
Cyanide (CN) is a negatively charged metal ion made of a carbon atom and a nitrogen atom. Cyanide solutions readily form soluble bonds with gold and silver, which is why the mining industry uses it.
Cyanide is usually stored and transported as a solid. It is stable when dry. Cyanide solids will dissolve in water or weak alkaline solutions to produce cyanide gas. When in gas form, it is called free cyanide. Cyanide gas is colorless, but smells of bitter almonds.
Cyanide is produced naturally in minute, harmless quantities in several plants, such as in apple seeds, soil bacteria and species of invertebrate organisms.
How does Cyanide affect living organisms?
Cyanide is highly toxic. Cyanide is the killing agent used in gas chambers.