Articles Posted in Cyanide Poisoning

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In Clear Spring, Maryland a few weeks back, an electrical malfunction in a stereo speaker caused a fire that sent a woman to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. The woman was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.

Authorities said the fire started at 5:46 a.m., when a stereo speaker on a living room shelf in the two-story home caught fire. The fire caused several hundred dollars in damages to the home and its contents. But even with so little damage, the fire required 15 firefighters from the towns of Clear Spring, Halfway, Maugansville, and Williamsport to hose down the house for five minutes to bring the fire under control.

Most importantly, a smoke alarm alerted the occupants of the fire. Without smoke detectors, the fire could have filled the house with hydrogen cyanide-laden smoke so quickly that the occupants would not have gotten out alive–and all because of a stereo speaker malfunction. Remember this story, so that you will make sure to check the batteries in the smoke alarms in your house.

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On October 6, 2011, the Fire Smoke Coalition launched the first Smoke Inhalation Treatment Database for use by EMTs, first responders and medical professionals throughout the world.

In the United States, residential fires are the third leading cause of fatal injury and the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death, yet the majority of fire-related fatalities are NOT caused by severe burns–they are cause by smoke inhalation.

Despite the amount of fires in the U.S. decreasing each year, the amount of civilians dying in fires is actually increasing. For example, in 2009, 1,348,500 fires were attended by public fire departments, a decrease of 7.1 percent from the year before; however, 3,010 civilian fire deaths occurred, which is an increase of 9.3 percent.

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Paramedics in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, NY have a new tool to help them save victims of smoke inhalation.

In late August, the paramedics announced that their ambulances will now carry supplies of the drug Cyanokit, which works to help those suffering from smoke inhalation by counteracting the chemicals in toxic gases and smoke. Other ambulance units around the country will likely do the same thing over time.

Paramedics are calling it a life-saving treatment. “It’s to benefit the citizens of our town and the firefighters who put their lives on the line, should anyone be overcome by smoke and the toxic effects of cyanide that’s in smoke,” said one paramedic.

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On May 19, the Fire Smoke Coalition sent out a press release saying that it “applauds the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s (CFSI) National Advisory Council (NAC) passage of A Resolution to Address a New Epidemic: Smoke Inhalation at its April board meeting.” CFSI is a leading non-partisan policy institute designed to educate members of Congress on the needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services.

In its resolution, CFSI notes that there is mounting proof, obtained through atmospheric monitoring on fire grounds throughout the U.S., that hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a predominant toxicant found in fire smoke. The resolution calls for educating the fire service about the dangers of smoke inhalation–including those of HCN–through support of a national education program, the development of HCN poisoning treatment protocols for all local and state emergency medical services (EMS), and efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a national database of smoke inhalation injuries, medical complications and deaths linked to HCN.

To learn even more about the Fire Smoke Coalition and about HCN poisoning, click on this link.

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Cyanide is a toxic chemical substance that is found in a gas or a salt form. The gaseous form is colorless with a bitter almonds odor. Cyanide can be ingested by mouth, inhaled or absorbed by the skin.

Cyanide is used in the synthesis of some plastic items; it can be used in cleaning metal as well as in other industrial or laboratory settings. Cyanide is also naturally present in some pits and seeds of fruits such as apricots and almonds but it’s in a small amount. Nitroprusside is a drug that may lead to cyanide toxicity if it’s given in an improper dose. During a house fire, cyanide gas is produced due to the combustion of common household materials. Inhalation of cyanide leads to cyanide poisoning. Cyanide can be used in chemical warfare and poisoning.

Cyanide simply works by decreasing the oxygen content of the blood by causing a chemical change that prevent oxygen from getting into the hemoglobin of the red blood cell and this will lead to tissue hypoxia.