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What is a Cyanide Test?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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A cyanide test is a laboratory test available for the use of testing for cyanide in a sample. Cyanide testing is available for a number of different kinds of samples, and in medicine, it most commonly involves testing of the blood in cases of suspected cyanide poisoning. A number of test products are manufactured by companies that create tests for laboratory use. These products are available through medical supply catalogs, as well as scientific testing companies.

In people who have cases of suspected cyanide poisoning, a blood cyanide test can be used to confirm the diagnosis and determine how much cyanide the patient has been exposed to. Commonly, poisoning is accidental, the result of exposure to workplace hazards. In other cases, it may be deliberately induced. Whether acute or chronic, poisoning can cause symptoms like difficulty breathing, headaches, and dizziness.

A blood sample drawn from a patient can be run through laboratory analysis to check for cyanide. The cyanide test includes agents known to react with cyanide and can reveal the concentrations in the sample with a change of color. Patients should be aware that they are usually not tested for cyanide poisoning if exposure is strongly suspected and symptoms are present. Instead, treatment is provided immediately to stabilize the patient and arrest the damage caused by the cyanide. Blood samples from the patient can be analyzed later to learn more about the situation, and these samples may also be useful in criminal investigations if there are concerns about the origins of the cyanide.

In addition to testing human blood, it is also possible to test water and other materials for cyanide. Cyanide test strips equipped with a reactive agent can be dipped into suspect water sources for a quick reading. These are used to monitor water safety, as well as to test water after it has been treated for cyanide, to confirm that the water is clean and safe for use. These strips are available from a number of sources, and are used by a variety of agencies including water quality monitoring agencies and branches of the military.

In ongoing pollution monitoring, people may take regular water samples at set intervals to look for signs of pollutants or to explore the effectiveness of an ongoing pollution treatment program. Results of these sampling tests are logged and stored in a database to generate information about changes in the environment over time. The cyanide test information can be compared against environmental legislation, specific cleanup projects, and other activities to see how effective these activities are for managing, preventing, and eliminating pollution.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Oct 19, 2014

I have a well in my backyard that was once hooked up to my house. When it was in use, we got all of our water from the well. We washed our clothes and dishes in water from the well. We bathed and showered in the water. We cooked with it, and we drank it.

Then one of my neighbors had a water test done on his well, and he found out that there were all sorts of chemicals in the water that could cause serious health problems over time. This is something I had not considered because I grew up in the country during a time when everyone was hooked up to well water.

Rather than trying to get my well water filtered and doing all of that chemical testing, I decided to get connected to the county water system. The county water may not be perfect, but I feel better using it instead of the well.

By Sporkasia — On Oct 18, 2014

@Laotionne - While TV and movies usually have a way of stretching the truth and over dramatizing, in this case, the story is based on truth anyway. In WW II British and American troops and agents had cyanide capsules placed in their mouths. The capsule was hidden in a false tooth. The cyanide helped the American and British avoid torture that might have led to them revealing important information to the enemy.

By Laotionne — On Oct 17, 2014

I have seen TV shows and movies in which spies have cyanide pills implanted in their teeth. The reasoning being that if they are caught they can bite down on the pills and then they won't be tortured. Is this really something that happens? Do spies in real life have cyanide pills somehow implanted in their mouths, or is this just a fictional thing for TV and movies?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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