Investigation of hydrogen cyanide generation from the cyanoacrylate fuming process used for latent fingermark detection

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Journal Article
Forensic Science International, 2011, 212 (1-3), pp. 143 - 149
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Cyanoacrylate fuming is one of the most common techniques employed for the detection of latent fingermarks on non-porous surfaces such as plastic and glass. The technique is generally applied by exposing items of interest to the vapours generated by heating a suitable quantity of commercial cyanoacrylate adhesive. In this study, the potential for highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN) to be generated from the overheating of cyanoacrylate was investigated. Two commercial cyanoacrylate adhesives and two quantitative methods for the determination of HCN were employed: (i) the sodium picrate method; and (ii) the picrate-resorcinol method. 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis was used to confirm the presence of cyanide. In addition, the thermal decomposition of cyanoacrylate was studied using simultaneous thermogravimetric and differential thermal analysis (TGA-DTA). It was determined that detectable and quantifiable amounts of HCN were generated from the thermal decomposition of cyanoacrylate monomer and polymer at temperatures as low as 200°C. Using an optimised picrate-resorcinol method, it was shown that around 10μg of HCN could be generated from the heating of 1g of cyanoacrylate monomer at 200°C. For one of the adhesives tested, this increased to above 100μg of HCN when 1g of cyanoacrylate monomer was heated at 280°C. Recommendations are provided that, if followed, should ensure that the cyanoacrylate fuming process can be safely applied with minimal risk to the operator. © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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