Archives of toxicology

Physiologically based pharmacokinetic modeling of hydrogen cyanide levels in human breath.

PMID 25069802


Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a potent and fast-acting toxin increasingly recognized as an important cause of death in fire victims. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of cyanide poisoning are essential to avoid fatalities. Unfortunately, there are at present few rapid diagnostic methods. A noninvasive methodology would be to use HCN in exhaled air as a marker for systemic exposure. To explore this possibility, we developed a preliminary physiologically based pharmacokinetic model. The model suggests that breath HCN levels following inhalation exposure at near-lethal and lethal conditions are 0.1-1xa0ppm, i.e., one to two orders of magnitude higher than the background breath level of about 0.01xa0ppm in unexposed subjects. Hence, our results imply that breath analysis may be used as a rapid diagnostic method for cyanide poisoning.