Toxicity of Sodium Cyanide

sodium cyanide is used often as an industrial reactant in the mining industry to extract precious metals such as silver and gold, this compound can be fatal when improperly exposed.

4Au + 8 NaCN + O2 + 2 H2O → 4 Na[Au(CN)2] + 4 NaOH

Typically, victims smell the scent of almonds before fatally succumbing to the compound within a few seconds. Chemically, the cyanide binds to the cytochrome c oxidase, which is a protein in the mitochondria of the human cell. This binding precludes the cells from accessing oxygen to maintain their healthy function.