Archives of toxicology

Simultaneous determination of hydrogen cyanide and volatile aliphatic nitriles by headspace gas chromatography, and its application to an in vivo study of the metabolism of acrylonitrile in the rat.

PMID 14985942


A method for the simultaneous determination of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and aliphatic nitriles using manual headspace (HS) gas chromatography (GC) with a capillary porous polymer column GS-Q and a nitrogen-phosphorus detector is described. With a HS incubation at 50 degrees C for 30 min and a GC temperature at 180 degrees C, HCN and volatile nitriles [acetonitrile, acrylonitrile (VCN), propionitrile, isobutyronitrile] were well separated and could be detected within 7 min with a detection limit of 0.7-2.4 ng/ml in blood samples. The HS-GC method was used in an in vivo study of VCN metabolism. VCN was administered orally (at nearly one-half its LD(50)) to rats, and heart blood and urine were sampled. Blood concentrations of HCN and VCN were measured by HS-GC, and plasma and urinary thiocyanate concentrations were measured by the König colorimetric method. Blood levels of HCN and VCN peaked 1.5 h after VCN administration, at which time the cyanide level (about 0.7 microg/ml) is close to the fatal level. HCN levels were observed to be at almost background levels at 10 h, although 50 ng/ml VCN was still detectable. The plasma thiocyanate level increased, reaching a peak (about 30 microg/ml) at 5 h. The cumulative urinary thiocyanate amount gradually increased, and at 10 h more than 1 mg thiocyanate was excreted into the urine. It is therefore possible to clarify the cause of cyanide poisoning using HS-GC analysis, when someone has taken volatile nitriles.