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Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Sodium and Potassium Cyanide as a Forensic Signature

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 57 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2012 Pages: 75-79
Helen W. Kreuzer, Ph.D.; Juske Horita, Ph.D.; James J. Moran, Ph.D.; Bruce A. Tomkins, Ph.D.; Derek B. Janszen, Ph.D.; April Carman, Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2012
5 pages
This research examines sodium and potassium cyanide a highly toxic gas.
Sodium and potassium cyanide are highly toxic, produced in large amounts by the chemical industry, and linked to numerous high-profile crimes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified cyanide as one of the most probable agents to be used in a chemical terrorism event. The authors investigated whether stable C and N isotopic content of sodium and potassium cyanide could serve as a forensic signature for sample matching, using a collection of 65 cyanide samples. Upon analysis, a few of the cyanide samples displayed nonhomogeneous isotopic content associated with degradation to a carbonate salt and loss of hydrogen cyanide. Most samples had highly reproducible isotope content. Of the 65 cyanide samples, greater than 95 percent could be properly matched based on C and N isotope ratios, with a false match rate less than 3 percent. These results suggest that stable C and N isotope ratios are a useful forensic signature for matching cyanide samples. Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.