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Police searching for toxic substance taken from UM research lab - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Police searching for toxic substance taken from UM research lab

Posted: Mar 08, 2018 8:13 AM Updated:

The Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana Police are investigating a report that a small amount of potassium cyanide, a highly-toxic substance, was removed from a University of Montana research laboratory. 

They say that the material is a white powder occupying less than half of a clear glass vial with a white lid. They believe the vial was possibly discarded somewhere within the area of Orange Street to Hickory and Craig Lane to S. 6th Street W. 

Both Missoula PD and UM Police say officers have searched the area but have not recovered the vial, adding it is uncertain that the vial was discarded. They said that they want to alert residents and those who may be in the area as a precaution.

Anyone who believes they have found the substance is being advised not to handle it and to call 9-1-1 immediately. 

Missoula PD and UM Police are handling the investigation, and say they will release more information when it becomes available.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website says of potassium cyanide:

  • APPEARANCE: White, granular or crystalline solid.
  • DESCRIPTION: Potassium cyanide releases hydrogen cyanide gas, a highly toxic chemical asphyxiant that interferes with the body’s ability to use oxygen. Exposure to potassium cyanide can be rapidly fatal. It has whole-body (systemic) effects, particularly affecting those organ systems most sensitive to low oxygen levels: the central nervous system (brain), the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), and the pulmonary system (lungs). Potassium cyanide is used commercially for fumigation, electroplating, and extracting gold and silver from ores. Hydrogen cyanide gas released by potassium cyanide has a distinctive bitter almond odor (others describe a musty “old sneakers smell”), but a large proportion of people cannot detect it; the odor does not provide adequate warning of hazardous concentrations. It is usually shipped as capsules, tablets, or pellets. Potassium cyanide absorbs water from air (is hygroscopic or deliquescent).
  • METHODS OF DISSEMINATION:
    • Indoor Air: Potassium cyanide can be released into indoor air as fine droplets, liquid spray (aerosol), or fine particles.
    • Water: Potassium cyanide can be used to contaminate water.
    • Food: Potassium cyanide can be used to contaminate food.
    • Outdoor Air: Potassium cyanide can be released into indoor air as fine droplets, liquid spray (aerosol), or fine particles.
    • Agricultural: If potassium cyanide is released as fine droplets, liquid spray (aerosol), or fine particles, it has the potential to contaminate agricultural products.
  • ROUTES OF EXPOSURE: Potassium cyanide can affect the body by ingestion, inhalation, skin contact, or eye contact.
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