Howard County police and federal drug enforcement agents yesterday said they averted a potential public health disaster last month when they seized four pounds of cyanide intended for distribution as PCP.

The announcement came three weeks after a June 16 raid on a drug laboratory in Savage, Md., that ended with the arrest of two Howard men and the seizure of what was first believed to be $8 million worth of crystallized PCP.

Chemical tests on the four pounds of flaked material, however, later revealed that it was poisonous cyanide, Howard Police Sgt. Paul Hajek said.

Officials said they believed it would have been fatal in most cases.

"If this stuff had hit the street, we would have had a situation on our hands similar to the Tylenol deaths in Chicago," said Hajek, referring to the string of seven murders last fall involving cyanide-laced medication.

A Howard County grand jury today indicted the two men arrested in the raid last month near Savage Park.

Richard A. Cook Jr., 25, of Savage, and Howard R. Martin Jr., 27, of Scaggsville, were indicted on charges of attempting to manufacture PCP, possessing illegal chemicals and conspiracy, Hajek said.

No trial date has been set for Cook or Martin, who are being held at the county detention center in Jessup in lieu of $250,000 and $200,000 bonds, respectively. Each faces a maximum 40-year jail term and $100,000 fine, Hajek said.

In statements after their arrest, Cook and Martin said they had believed the cyanide was in fact PCP, said Hajek, who added that police also believed the flakes were PCP. He refused to say where Cook and Martin got the cyanide, but two police sources said it had been stolen.