Hemoglobin and Cyanide

William R. Penrose wpenrose at interaccess.com
Tue Dec 5 16:51:43 EST 1995

In article <dyanega-0512951127520001 at catalpa.inhs.uiuc.edu> dyanega at denr1.igis.uiuc.edu (Doug Yanega) writes:

>> them as interference.  One of the treatments for HCN poisoning is to
>inhale an 
>> organic nitrite, which oxidizes Hb to mHb.  The CN is then tied up by the mHb 
>> instead of trashing the cytochroma oxidase, which is its toxic target.

>This raises a question: I've been told by a colleague that cyanide builds
>up in the body tissues over time, and that after years of slight sublethal
>doses, one more tiny dose can "push a person over the edge" suddenly. 

That's a new one on me.  But then toxicology has a lot of folklore in it.  In 
fact, the idea of using amyl nitrite as an antidote is a bit of folklore, 
since if you get a good faceful of HCN you will be off the planet before 
anyone can find the stuff.  The main purpose of amyl nitrite ampoules is 
probably to make people feel more comfortable working with cyanide.  

During my undergraduate days, I got a little sniff of HCN and it was like 
being hit in the face with a two-by-four.  It reduced me to semiconsciousness 
in a second or two, but I recovered over the next few minutes and did not even 
need treatment.

In favor of your friend, there was the case of the silver-recovery plant 
in Chicago a while ago where a man died after years of leaning over vats 
containing cyanide used for leaching silver from photo film.  The plant owners 
had criminal charges brought against them.  Either the guy died from the 
cumulative dose, or one day he just got too big a whiff.

Perhaps the body cannot replace or regenerate the cytochrome oxidase fast 
enough to support the attrition from continual exposure?

Bill Penrose, Sr. Scientist, Transducer Research, Inc., 
600 N. Commons Dr, Ste. 117, Aurora IL 60540, 708-978-8802, fax -8854
   email wpenrose at interaccess.com
"In any field, it is easy to see who the pioneers are -- they are
the ones lying face down with arrows in their backs."  (Anon.)

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