Ipecac is not recommended for ingestion of potassium cyanide.4.

If a halogenoalkane is heated under reflux with a solution of sodium or potassium cyanide in ethanol, the halogen is replaced by a -CN group and a nitrile is produced. Heating under reflux means heating with a condenser placed vertically in the flask to prevent loss of volatile substances from the mixture.

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Emergency personnel should avoid self-exposure to potassium cyanide.2.

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The effects of cyanide on behaviour were studied in fasted 25-week-old miniature pigs (12 litter mates: 5 females and 7 castrated males) randomized in four groups. The animals were dosed daily for 24 weeks with a single bolus of cyanide as aqueous potassium cyanide just prior to the daily feeding. The doses were 0, 0.4, 0.7, or 1.2 mg cyanide/kg body weight, chosen to be equivalent to those consumed by West Africans in their diet (Jackson et al., 1985). Every 6 weeks, thyroid function (T3 and T4) and fasting blood glucose were measured, but not thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Daily observations were made of clinical signs and various behavioural measurements, including social, antagonistic, exploratory, learning, feeding, and excretory behaviour. In all treatment groups, dose-related decreases were evident from week 6 in blood levels of T3 and T4, and an increase in fasting blood glucose was noted, particularly in top-dose animals. Statistical analysis was not provided for each dose group versus control, but changes in top-dose animals appeared significant by week 18; by week 24, decreases of 35% for T3 and 15% for T4 and an increase of 60% in fasting blood glucose were observed. Behavioural observations revealed a picture of decreased high energy-demanding behaviour, such as exploration and aggression, slower eating, more frequent drinking, and shivering consistent with the decreased thyroid activity. A LOAEL of 1.2 mg/kg body weight per day could be suggested from this study (Jackson, 1988).


In equivalent studies with pregnant Yorkshire pigs, three groups of six animals were given potassium cyanide in the diet (30.3, 277, or 521 mg cyanide/kg diet) throughout gestation. No effects were seen on the number or weight of offspring or subsequent lactational performance. Pregnant sows treated at the highest dose level had proliferative changes in the kidney glomeruli and increased thyroid weights. Fetal spleen to body weight and head to body weight ratios in the high-cyanide group were significantly reduced (> 0.05) compared with the low-cyanide exposed group (Tewe & Maner, 1981b).

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In order to study the possible contribution of cyanide exposure to malnutrition-related diabetes mellitus (see section 8), Okolie & Osagie (1999, 2000) fed New Zealand White rabbits potassium cyanide for 10 months (702 mg cyanide/kg diet, corresponding to approximately 20 mg/kg body weight per day). No effects were observed on the serum amylase activity, blood glucose concentration, or the morphology of the pancreas, while degenerative changes were reported in the liver and kidney. Similarly, 1-year feeding of cassava to rats induced no changes in blood glucose homeostasis or pancreatic histology (Mathangi et al., 2000).

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After 2 weeks on a diet containing 5 or 10 g potassium cyanide/100 g diet, female rats (10 per group) were mated with untreated males. No pregnancies resulted. The dose corresponds roughly to 1000 and 2000 mg cyanide/kg body weight per day (Olusi et al., 1979). There was a dose-dependent decrease in body weight gain, blood haemoglobin (18% and 23%), and serum T4 concentration (54% and 75%).

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No testicular DNA synthesis inhibition was detected in mice after a single oral potassium cyanide dose of 1 mg/kg body weight (Friedman & Staub, 1976).

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DNA repair tests in WP67, CM871, and WP2 with potassium cyanide were negative (De Flora et al., 1984). Potassium cyanide induced both time- and dose-dependent DNA fragmentation accompanied by cytotoxicity in rat thymocytes . Cyanide also induced DNA damage in baby hamster kidney cells (BHK-21) , where, unlike thymocytes, internucleosome DNA fragmentation was not observed (Bhattacharya & Rao, 1997). The cytotoxic mode of double strand breaks in the pathogenesis of DNA fragmentation was studied by Vock et al. (1998), employing an A549 human epithelial-like lung carcinoma cell line treated with potassium cyanide. Induction of double strand breaks by potassium cyanide was observed only after cell viability was reduced to less than 60%, indicating that double strand breaks were the consequence of extragenomic damage, as a secondary effect of high cytotoxicity in combination with cell lethality.