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Forensic Sci Int. 2012 Oct 10;222(1-3):e7-e12. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.05.014. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

Analysis of hydrogen cyanide in air in a case of attempted cyanide poisoning.

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The Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), CBRN Defence and Security, SE-901 82 Umeå, Sweden.


A 32-year-old man attempted to poison his ex-girlfriend with hydrogen cyanide by hiding the pesticide Uragan D2 in her car. During the police investigation, chemical analysis of the air inside the car was performed. Hydrogen cyanide was detected through on-site air analysis using a portable Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy gas analyzer and colorimetric gas detection tubes. Furthermore, impinger air-sampling was performed for off-site sample preparation and analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). All three independent techniques demonstrated the presence of hydrogen cyanide, at concentrations of 14-20 ppm. Owing to the high volatility of hydrogen cyanide, the temperature and the time since exposure have a substantial effect on the likelihood of detecting hydrogen cyanide at a crime scene. The prevailing conditions (closed space, low temperature) must have supported the preservation of HCN in the car thus enabling the identification even though the analysis was performed several days after the hydrogen cyanide source was removed. This paper demonstrates the applicability of combining on-site FTIR measurements and off-site GC-MS analysis of a crime scene in order to ensure fast detection as well as unambiguous identification for forensic purposes of hydrogen cyanide in air.

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