- Krar's sodium cyanide bomb is dangerous because of how lethal this stuff is when dumped into a strong acid such as H2SO4. It releases hydrogen cyanide gas. Very small amounts can kill a lot of people and very quickly. For instance, an average vending machine candy bar weighs about 50 grams, which is 25 times more by weight than the amount needed to kill a 150-pound human in under one minute. It is even more dangerous than Sarin, the organophosphate nerve gas used by Japanese domestic terrorists in the Tokyo subway. [See here for more details.]
If you want to explore this issue further, use this search string in Google:
MSDS stands for "material data safety sheet," which is the occupational health information for chemcials. LD50 stands for the "lethal dose" for 50 percent of any exposed population of test subjects, usually laboratory rats. Lethal dose is expressed as mass of the chemcial in milligrams as a function of the weight of the subject organism in kilograms. Extrapolation to a human weighing 150 pounds is linear.
The Environmental Protection Agency says this about sodium cyanide's lethal characteristics:
- "Super toxic; probable oral lethal dose in humans is less than 5 mg/kg (less than 7 drops) for a 70 kg (150 lb.) person (*Gosselin 1976). Sodium cyanide is poisonous and may be fatal if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Contact with sodium cyanide may cause burns to skin and eyes (*DOT 1984)."
You quoted on your blog, and later said on Fox News, that the U.S. attorney said Krar's device would "kill everyone in a 30,000 square foot room." Assuming this is floor area, let's take a look at how small, and portable, thus easy to hide, Krar's weapon is given that figure.
A 30,000 sq ft. floor area building is roughly 174 ft. on a side, which is, interestingly enough, the size of a typical food eatery. In order to avoid associating brand names with this analysis, just look at some of the leaders in the industry to see what I am talking about. On an average noontime there might be 100 people inside of one of these eateries.
So, a terrorist choosing to kill 100 people in a fast-food restaurant with sodium cyanide and acid as a binary weapon, with an M-80 as the detonator, would need the equivalent of just two average size candy bars, in terms of mass, to carry out a horrendous act of mass murder. He'd put the sodium cyanide in one glass bottle and the acid in the other. When the firecracker goes off, the two glass bottles bound together break, the contents mix, the gas is created, and people die horrible deaths. You could hide this inside a lunch sack that held a burger, fries, and a soft drink.
Interestingly enough, Krar's defense attorney is quoted in the news media as saying that Krar's sodium cyanide device was the size of a "pharmacy bottle." If I put a cough syrup bottle and two candy bars next to each other, they look like they are roughly the same volume.
Is it a coincidence that the U.S. Attorney's public estimate of the killing power of Krar's device and Krar's defense attorney's characterization of the device itself are nearly identitical?
Am I glad Krar is behind bars? You bet.
Am I scared because we don't know what Krar planned to do with his arsenal? And how.
It is worth noting, of course, that a bomb like Krar's is only effective inside an enclosed space. Its lethality would be extremely limited in a place like, say, the Super Bowl. But one could expect at least a thousand deaths at a sports facility like a typical NBA arena -- with a bomb no larger than a small paper sack.