Toxicological analysis of azide and cyanide for azide intoxications using gas chromatography.


Azide is a highly toxic chemical agent to human being. Accidental, but also intentional exposure to azide occurs. To be able to confirm azide ingestion, we developed a method to identify and quantify azide in biological matrices. Cyanide was included in the method to evaluate suggested in vivo production of cyanide after azide ingestion. Azide in biological matrices was first derivatized by propionic anhydride to form propionyl azide. Simultaneously, cyanide was converted into hydrogen cyanide. After thermal rearrangement of propionyl azide, ethyl isocyanate was formed, separated together with hydrogen cyanide by gas chromatography (GC) and detected using a nitrogen phosphorous detector (NPD). The method was linear from 1.0-100 µg/mL for both analytes, and azide was stable in human plasma at -20°C for at least 49 days. Azide was measured in the gastric content of two cases of suspected azide ingestion (case 1:1.2 mg/mL, case 2:1.5 mg/mL). Cyanide was only identified in the gastric content of case 1 (approximately 1.4 µg/mL). Furthermore, azide was quantified in plasma (19 µg/mL), serum (24 µg/mL), cell pellet (21 µg/mL) and urine (3.0 µg/mL) of case 2. This method can be used to confirm azide and cyanide exposure, and azide concentrations can be quantified in several biological matrices.

More about this publication

Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology
  • Volume 128
  • Issue nr. 3
  • Pages 534-541
  • Publication date 01-03-2021

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