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Updated 25 July 2013

Hijacked truck: potassium cyanide dangers

A truck filled with potassium cyanide hijacked on Saturday in Midrand is still missing. Here's more about this lethal substance.

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A truck containing potassium cyanide is still missing after being hijacked in Midrand on Saturday.

This is a highly toxic chemical, and coming into contact with it could have fatal consequences.

Here are 10 quick facts on potassium cyanide:

  • This is a very poisonous crystalline substance which is often used in the mining industry and for electroplating.
  • Potassium cyanide is also used in photographic processing and as an insecticide.
  • It is also found in pesticides, toilet bowl cleaner, acetone, bleaching solutions, gasoline and hair straighteners.
  • Potassium cyanide can kill you if it is swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
  • This inorganic compound is soluble in water and looks like sugar. To some people it has a taste like bitter almonds.
  • The lethal dose of potassium cyanide is between 200 – 300mg.
  • Potassium cyanide can kill you in a matter of seconds – hence its popularity as a 'suicide pill' during World War II among convicted war criminals. It is what over 900 of the followers of Jim Jones drank in Jonestown, Guyana, in order to commit mass suicide.
  • It binds to the haemoglobin in your blood, stopping oxygen from being transported in your body. Death is by asphyxiation.
  • A small dose of potassium cyanide will cause extreme headaches, nausea and vertigo.
  • If you suspect someone has been exposed to potassium cyanide, call for emergency medical help immediately.

(Sources:www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/EmergencyResponseCard; ask.com; cameochemicals.noaa.gov)

- (Photo of danger sign from Shutterstock)

 
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