Cyanides (as total CN)

CN-tot, Cyanider, som CN


Cyanides (as total CN)

CAS no


Molecular formula


 Cyanide contains a carbon atom bonded to a nitrogen atom. It is commonly found in combination with hydrogen, sodium or potassium. Hydrogen cyanide is a colourless gas with a faint odour of bitter almond. It is soluble in water and in alcohol. Sodium and potassium cyanides are solid, white substances that are soluble in water and have the same faint odour of bitter almond as hydrogen cyanide.1


Cyanides and hydrogen cyanide are used during electroplating, metallurgy, production of organic chemicals, in photographic equipment, production of plastics and in some mining processes.2 Hydrogen cyanide is also used as pesticide for insects, arthropods and smaller vertebrates.3

Sources and transportation pathways

Cyanides are emitted to the atmosphere, water and land by natural as well as anthropogenic sources.4 Some bacteria, fungi and algae produce cyanide. In some plant-based foods and plants, cyanides are formed naturally as part of sugars or other naturally occurring compounds.5 Wastewater treatment plants and the metal industry are the largest point sources of emissions to water on a European level.6

on environment and health

Cyanides are classified as very toxic to aquatic organisms and result in long-term effects. To humans, cyanides are classified as lethal by poisoning through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.7

International agreements and regulations

Cyanides are regulated by the EU Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU). The UN Protocol on PRTRs and the EU E-PRTR regulation regulate how data on cyanide emissions is made available.