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Get Informed | What is Cyanide?

Cyanide is a chemical compound of carbon and nitrogen. The cyano group is a carbon atom that is triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanide is naturally present and released from certain plants such as cassava, lima beans and almonds and some pits and seeds of apricots, apples, and peaches have complexes that are converted to cyanide. The most commonly used form in manufacturing, hydrogen cyanide, is mainly used to make compounds and other synthetic fibers and resins. Cyanide is normally found in wastewater from metal-finishing operations and in manufacturing. Cyanide is also used in paper, textiles, and plastics manufacturing and cyanide salts are used in electroplating, gold extraction from ore, and cleaning metal. Cyanide is used to make nylon, synthetic fibers, and resins.

How Does Cyanide become a problem?

Cyanide can enter the environment through a combination of natural and man-made or induced activities. Excluding threats of terrorism or war, the primary concern is related to the accidental release of cyanide during the manufacturing process or the improper management and treatment of waste streams that use cyanide in the manufacturing process. Cyanide may be present in landfill waste and some road salting agents.

What are the Health Risks for Cyanide?

For short-term exposures, the EPA found that cyanide exposure has been associated with rapid breathing, tremors, and general problems related to the nervous system. Excluding terrorism, the long-term exposure to cyanide has been associated with nerve damage, thyroid problems, impacts to the endocrine system, and weight loss.

What are the Standards for Cyanide?

The EPA has set a primary drinking water standard for cyanide at 0.2 mg/L and set a health advisory limit to exposure to hydrogen cyanide at 0.006 mg/kg/day. Maine has a standard of 0.004 mg/L, California has a standard of 0.015 mg/L, and the WHO has a standard of 0.07 mg/L.

Get Tested | Cyanide

Like many contaminants in drinking water, the element is potentially hazardous at levels or concentrations that do not impart a noticeable taste, odor, or appearance to the water. Your best course of action is to get your water tested and compile as much information as possible about your water supply source, well construction, surrounding land-use, and local geology. If you do have a cyanide problem, there are water treatment technologies available now that can reduce or even remove cyanide from your drinking water, but it is also necessary to identify the source and route of contamination.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Level 1 Testing is done with simple observations that an individual can make with their own senses such as sight, smell, and taste. These observations can be readily apparent or can be observed as they change over time. In addition, accessible related information about the home can also be used to narrow down the cause of your water issues.

Observations for Cyanide

The symptoms for cyanide in the water include:

  • You are in an area with a current or historic manufacturing or use of cyanide in the manufacturing process, such as resin manufacturers, metal finishing (plating/polishing), iron and steel mills, and some organic chemical manufacturers.
  • You are located near a landfill or your water source is downgradient of an industrial chemical manufacturer that uses cyanide.
  • You are experiencing health related problems similar to the acute/chronic symptoms of cyanide exposure. This may include pink or cherry red skin, headache, chest pain, vomiting, abdominal pain, and anxiety. Please note these symptoms can be common to many other issues and will not likely be apparent at very low levels of cyanide.
Level 1 | Self-Test Web App
To do a quick and easy self diagnosis of your water, click the button below.
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Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Testing

Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Cyanide

We are not aware of any in-home testing for cyanide, but there are some screening testing that may be advisable from Industrial Test Systems or the Hach Company.  If you are concerned about your water quality and serviced by a private well we recommend the Test Assured In-home screening test that includes a TDS meter and ordering a Neighborhood Hazard Report. If you are on city water, we would suggest ordering the Test Assured Kit and calling your water supplier to obtain a copy of your Consumer Confidence Report.

Recommended Level 2 Tests
Crystal QuestReverse Osmosis (R/O) Units

<div class="product-note in-L6-radium-226-and-radium-228">Note: If the concentration of combined radium is < 5 pCi/L, alpha and beta are low, and radon less than 300 pCi/L - (POU Device)</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-cyanide">Note: Note: For cyanide levels that are less than 0.1 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-total-dissolved-solids">Note: Consider this treatment If the problem appears to be related to chloride or sodium.</div>

View
National Testing LabsWaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Recommended Products
Crystal QuestST-CRYS-C-01 | Reverse Osmosis (R/O) Units

<div class="product-note in-L6-radium-226-and-radium-228">Note: If the concentration of combined radium is < 5 pCi/L, alpha and beta are low, and radon less than 300 pCi/L - (POU Device)</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-cyanide">Note: Note: For cyanide levels that are less than 0.1 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-total-dissolved-solids">Note: Consider this treatment If the problem appears to be related to chloride or sodium.</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-4 | WaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-2 | WaterCheck Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Neighborhood Environmental Report

Order a Neighborhood Environmental Report to learn about potential hazards in your community.

Level 3 | Informational Testing

Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Cyanide

If you are on a city water or regulated water source, it is not likely you would have a problem with cyanide and if you are on a private water source cyanide exposure is rare. We are not aware of a third-party informational testing service for cyanide. To our knowledge, cyanide has not been detected in a regulated water supply above the drinking water limit and it has been detected in certified water systems in only two states (Pennsylvania and Maryland) (Source)

If you want to screen water for cyanide we would recommend one of the options listed in Level 2 or proceeding to Level 4 testing.  If you are a City Water Customer and you never had your water tested, we would recommend the National Testing Labs City Water Check Standard and that you get a copy of the Consumer Confidence Report for your water. For private well users and because cyanide was used for agricultural activities and some industrial activities, we would recommend either the National Testing Labs Deluxe Water Testing Service and ordering at least the Neighborhood Environmental Report.

Recommended Level 3 Tests
Crystal QuestReverse Osmosis (R/O) Units

<div class="product-note in-L6-radium-226-and-radium-228">Note: If the concentration of combined radium is < 5 pCi/L, alpha and beta are low, and radon less than 300 pCi/L - (POU Device)</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-cyanide">Note: Note: For cyanide levels that are less than 0.1 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-total-dissolved-solids">Note: Consider this treatment If the problem appears to be related to chloride or sodium.</div>

View
National Testing LabsWaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

Level 4 | Certified Testing

A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Cyanide

For city water the presence of cyanide is unlikely, but if you are within the water systems in Pennsylvania and Maryland that contain cyanide, we strongly recommend that some Level 2 testing for cyanide be conducted and it would be advisable to characterize the water quality using Level 3 testing for other parameters and to obtain a copy of your Consumer Confidence Report for your system. For private water sources, the issue with cyanide is primarily associated with the historic use or disposal of this chemical. Therefore, the area and land-use around your source is critical.  We would recommend ordering the Neighborhood Hazard Report, conducting the Level 2 screening, and Level 3 testing that includes a bacteria test as recommended before conducting certified testing.

Neighborhood Environmental Report

Order a Neighborhood Environmental Report to learn about potential hazards in your community.

Get Treatment | Cyanide

Pretreatment may be needed in some cases to ensure acceptable treatment by the primary water treatment system. Some of the treatment technologies may not be amenable to point-of-entry or even whole-house treatments options. In these cases, point-of-use units may be the best option. Periodic testing should be maintained after the treatment system is in place to ensure objectives are being met and the system is operating properly and most systems will require maintenance on at least an annual basis.

Short Term Treatment

If it appears you are experiencing a problem with cyanide, do not boil your drinking water. An interim solution may be the use of a point-of-use device, using a bottled water source, or hauling in potable water. Because other contaminants may be present in the water, it would be advisable to have the water tested before and after the use of any point-of-use device.

Recommended Short-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L6-radium-226-and-radium-228">Note: If the concentration of combined radium is < 5 pCi/L, alpha and beta are low, and radon less than 300 pCi/L - (POU Device)</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-cyanide">Note: Note: For cyanide levels that are less than 0.1 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-total-dissolved-solids">Note: Consider this treatment If the problem appears to be related to chloride or sodium.</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Recommendation: Seek Advice from a Local Professional (Customized Solution). Contact Us

Long Term Treatment

For the long-term, it may be necessary to install a water treatment system. For cyanide, the common water treatment technologies are ion-exchange, reverse osmosis, granular activated carbon, electrodialysis, and chlorination. Depending on the technology, the concentration, and the form of cyanide as well as other contaminants, the system may require a number of treatment approaches: a combination of a whole-house treatment system and then point-of-use treatment devices. Because of the nature of the contaminant, we recommend working with a local water quality professional.

Recommended Long-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L6-radium-226-and-radium-228">Note: If the concentration of combined radium is < 5 pCi/L, alpha and beta are low, and radon less than 300 pCi/L - (POU Device)</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-cyanide">Note: Note: For cyanide levels that are less than 0.1 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-total-dissolved-solids">Note: Consider this treatment If the problem appears to be related to chloride or sodium.</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Recommendation: Seek Advice from a Local Professional (Customized Solution). Contact Us

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