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The cyanogen halides are a group of chemically reactive compounds which contain a cyano group (-CN) attached to a halogen element, such as fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine. Cyanogen halides are colorless, volatile, lacrimatory (tear-producing) and highly poisonous compounds.2 Cyanogen fluoride is a gas produced by heating cyanuric fluoride. Cyanogen chloride is a liquid produced by reacting chlorine with hydrocyanic acid. It has been suggested that cyanogen chloride be used by the military as poison gas. Cyanogen bromide is a solid that is prepared by reacting bromine with hydrocyanic acid salts; it has been used as a chemical pesticide against insects and rodents and as a reagent for the study of protein structure. Cyanogen halides have been found to act as electrolytes in liquid solvents, sulfur dioxide, arsenious chloride, and sulfuryl chloride.
Biomedical Effects and Metabolism of cyanogen halides
Cyanide is naturally present in human tissues in very small quantities. It is metabolized by rhodanese, a live enzyme at a rate of approximately 17 µg/kg*min. Rhodanese catalyzes the irreversible reaction forming thiocyanate from cyanide and sulfane which is non-toxic and can be excreted through the urine. Under normal conditions, availability of sulfane is the limiting factor which acts as a substrate for rhodanese. Sulfur can be administered therapeutically as sodium thiosulfate to accelerate the reaction. A lethal dose of cyanide is time-dependent because of the body’s ability to detoxify and excrete small amounts of cyanide through rhodanese-sulfate catalysis. If an amount of cyanide is absorbed slowly, rhodanese-sulfate may be able to biologically render it non-toxic through catalysis to thiosulfate where as the same amount administered over a short period of time may be lethal.
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