Chemist sentenced for potassium cyanide possession

Hessam Ghane of Independence, Missouri, a 61-year old chemist, has been sentenced to eight years and one month in jail for possession of the extremely toxic substance potassium cyanide, which is considered a chemical weapon.

Ghane, who will not be eligible for parole, was arrested after police in Independence found 177 grams of stolen potassium cyanide in his home in February 2003, Fox 4KC reports. Prosecutors allege that he intended to use the chemical to harm federal employees or kill himself.

According to the government officials, 177 grams would be enough to kill several hundred people. The evidence at his trial showed that Ghane stole the substance from a lab at Maple Woods Community College, where he taught in 1996 and 1997, according to Fox 4KC.

Potassium cyanide exists as a crystal as opposed to other gaseous forms of cyanide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The deadly chemical can be introduced via breathing air, eating food or drinking water that contains cyanide.

Some of the symptoms of cyanide exposure include dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, rapid heart rate, convulsions, lung injury and respiratory failure leading to death. Long-term exposure can lead to heart and brain damage. Immediate medical attention is recommended for anyone exposed to cyanide.