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Cyanide Leak and Sleepy Chemists
Cyanide Leak and Sleepy Chemists
Chemists were found on the floor of a boxcar while unloading drums of sodium cyanide. What happened to the chemists, were they poisoned?
Mysteries of Science
Dr. Gilleo
Mysteries of Science by Dr. Ken Gilleo
Dr. Gilleo is a chemist, inventor and general problem solver. Ken has been tracking industrial forensics and collecting case histories for decades. These cases are taken from the vast world of industry and commercial enterprise.

Check out Dr. Gilleo's eBook, 100 Mysteries Solved by Science. We hope you enjoy these case histories. You need not be an engineer or scientist to understand the problems and appreciate the solutions.
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The workers at a big chemical plant were on strike.  Management was still able to keep the most critical processes running. Lots of product was being churned out but the factory still needed more manpower, and a labor settlement was unlikely any time soon.

Volunteers were asked to come over from a large R and D factory on the site, many chemists wanted to experience the production side and volunteered.  The chemists were finding the work and the hours very grueling. With the long hours and limited sleep there were safety concerns. So three chemists were assigned to unload a boxcar filled with aluminum drums of sodium cyanide.

The drum plugs were not perfectly tight and a small amount of cyanide gas was leaking.  A fork truck operator found two of the operators lying on the floor.  Fearing they were poisoned by the gas he called for help.

Just then the two chemists sat up like zombies. 

What happened to the chemists, why weren't they poisoned by the leaking cyanide?

Here's the rest of the story.

One of the chemists decided to rest his head on the wooden floor of the old boxcar. His teammate decided that was a good idea too. Both were dead tired from 84 hours per week shifts. Within no time at all, both were sleeping.

The traces of cyanide gas may have helped put them to sleep by reducing blood oxygen levels a bit. And there may have been a potential danger since the toxic level of cyanide is only 1 part per million, but they survived and awoke refreshed.

The story lives on about the R&D chemists who died in the cyanide box car, but come back to work whenever the plant goes out on strike.

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