What Is a Cyanide Test?

In cases of suspected cyanide, poisoning blood tests are ordered to confirm a diagnosis.
Water is sometimes tested for cyanide.
A change of color in a blood sample will reveal the concentration of cyanide.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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A cyanide test is a laboratory test available for the use of testing for cyanide in a sample. Cyanide testing is available for a number of different kinds of samples, and in medicine, it most commonly involves testing of the blood in cases of suspected cyanide poisoning. A number of test products are manufactured by companies that create tests for laboratory use. These products are available through medical supply catalogs, as well as scientific testing companies.

In people who have cases of suspected cyanide poisoning, a blood cyanide test can be used to confirm the diagnosis and determine how much cyanide the patient has been exposed to. Commonly, poisoning is accidental, the result of exposure to workplace hazards. In other cases, it may be deliberately induced. Whether acute or chronic, poisoning can cause symptoms like difficulty breathing, headaches, and dizziness.


A blood sample drawn from a patient can be run through laboratory analysis to check for cyanide. The cyanide test includes agents known to react with cyanide and can reveal the concentrations in the sample with a change of color. Patients should be aware that they are usually not tested for cyanide poisoning if exposure is strongly suspected and symptoms are present. Instead, treatment is provided immediately to stabilize the patient and arrest the damage caused by the cyanide. Blood samples from the patient can be analyzed later to learn more about the situation, and these samples may also be useful in criminal investigations if there are concerns about the origins of the cyanide.

In addition to testing human blood, it is also possible to test water and other materials for cyanide. Cyanide test strips equipped with a reactive agent can be dipped into suspect water sources for a quick reading. These are used to monitor water safety, as well as to test water after it has been treated for cyanide, to confirm that the water is clean and safe for use. These strips are available from a number of sources, and are used by a variety of agencies including water quality monitoring agencies and branches of the military.

In ongoing pollution monitoring, people may take regular water samples at set intervals to look for signs of pollutants or to explore the effectiveness of an ongoing pollution treatment program. Results of these sampling tests are logged and stored in a database to generate information about changes in the environment over time. The cyanide test information can be compared against environmental legislation, specific cleanup projects, and other activities to see how effective these activities are for managing, preventing, and eliminating pollution.


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