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Any chemical compound containing the combining group CN. Ionic (seeion; ionic bond) and organic cyanide compounds differ in chemical properties, but both are toxic, especially the ionic ones. Cyanide poisoning inhibits cells' oxidative (seeoxidation-reduction) processes; its action is extremely rapid, and an antidote must be given promptly. Cyanides occur naturally in certain seeds (e.g., apple seeds, wild cherry pits). Cyanides, including hydrogen cyanide (HCN, or hydrocyanic acid), are used industrially in the production of acrylic fibres, synthetic rubbers, and plastics as well as in electroplating, case-hardening of iron and steel, fumigation, and concentration of ores.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cyanide, visit Britannica.com.