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From: (Don Wilkins)
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.metalworking
Subject: Re: Warning! Potassium Cyanide is in your silverware.
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 12:59:36 GMT

On Sun, 14 May 2000 12:46:05 -0400, Ted Edwards
<> wrote:

>,;Bert wrote:
>,;> wouldn't want to ingest it in any quantity -- I don't believe exposure
>,;> to air alone will convert it to hydrogen cyanide (HCN, the gas used in
>,;> gas chamber executions); an acid is required for that.

Air won't but moisture in the air will.
>,;Gas chambers dropped Sulfuric acid into KCN or NaCN (I don't know
>,;which).  Either of those exposed to air decompose to produce harmless
Neither is not correct.

In the gas chambers the solid cyanide pellets are dropped into a
container of sulfuric acid.

Neither KCN nor NaCN are decomposed by air.

Without going into the chemistry in disgusting detail hydrogen cyanide
(HCN) is an extremely weak acid. Either KCN or NaCN will react with
the moisture in the air to form HCN (gas) and either NaOH or KOH. The
reaction is a hydrolysis. There are no carbonates formed in the
reaction although the base produced can absorb C02 from the air.

The reaction is

H2O + KCN-------> HCN (gas) + KOH

If you open a bottle of KCN in the lab you can smell the HCN as a
result of the above reaction. Water alone doesn't produce HCN fast
enough to be a hazard unless you stand there and inhale deeply or are
in a confined space. You note from the above reaction that a strong
base is being produced and this tends to slow down the evolution of

When I was working in the lab and had access to about any chemical I
wanted I used this reaction to eliminate the woodchucks and pocket
gophers which took up residence in the lawn or garden. open the hole,
put in a teaspoon of KCN, close the hole and the moisture from the
ground cause HCN to permeate the entire underground runway.

I saw the men in the white suits recovering the cyanide containers on
the news media. IF the cyanide containers were unbroken then the white
suits were overkill. Even if they were simply broken but not booby
trapped the white suits were not necessary. If the HCN is produced
from moist air the odor would have warned them to put on gas masks.

The individual who directed the use of the white suits probably was in
the  "I'm gonna keep my ass covered" mode. Certainly prudent when
one's job could be at risk.

In regard to the topic KCN in your silverware. Absolute BS.

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