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Crew removes dangerous substance downtown

A large crew of Red Deer Emergency Services personnel dealt with a potentially fatal chemical compound in the downtown early Thursday afternoon.

Firefighters donned HazMat suits as they entered a building undergoing renovations at 5301 Gaetz Ave. around 1 p.m. to remove a sealed container containing potassium cyanide, a granular crystalline compound used in photography, fumigation and mining. Workers doing the renovations had noticed the one-litre bottle of hazardous material and called Emergency Services.

Potassium cyanide releases hydrogen cyanide gas, a highly toxic chemical asphyxiant that interferes with the body’s ability to use oxygen. The gas has a distinctive bitter almond odour and exposure can rapidly lead to deaths.

The HazMat crew removed the bottle and turned it over to the city’s Environmental Services Department, which will dispose of it. The container remained sealed throughout the procedure and there was no spill reported.

Gary Engebretson, assistant platoon chief with Red Deer Emergency Services, said the potassium cyanide find was a rare one, as it is not commercially available anymore.

 
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