Yesterday we got a flashback of 9/11, and now the Anthrax scare is back. From @911Buff
- LETTER ADDRESSED TO A U.S. SENATE OFFICE INTERCEPTED AT U.S. CAPITAL, TESTS POSITIVE FOR RICIN POISION.
- POISON LETTER WAS SENT TO SENATOR ROGER WICKER FROM MISSISSIPPI AT THE CAPITOL. FBI INVESTIGATING.
Ricin's toxic history is long and illustrious: starting with the death of Bulgarian dissident journalist Georgi Markov, using the infamous KGB umbrella, and most recently used by Walter White (unsuccessfully) to eliminate the meth dealing competition.
CNN has some initial bits and pieces:
An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol's off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.
After the envelope tested positive in a first routine test, it was retested two more times, each time coming up positive, the law enforcement source said. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing.
A photo of Senator Roger Wicker via politico:
Live webcast from Politico:
Finally, some facts from the CDC on ricin:
What ricin is
- Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury. Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans.
- It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.
- It is a stable substance under normal conditions, but can be inactivated by heat above 80 degrees centigrade (176 degrees Fahrenheit).
Where ricin is found and how it is used
- Castor beans are processed throughout the world to make castor oil. Ricin is part of the waste “mash” produced when castor oil is made.
- Ricin has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells.
How you could be exposed to ricin
- It would take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people. Unintentional exposure to ricin is highly unlikely, except through the ingestion of castor beans.
- If made into a partially purified material or refined into a terrorist or warfare agent, ricin could be used to expose people through the air, food, or water.
- In 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian writer and journalist who was living in London, died after he was attacked by a man with an umbrella. The umbrella had been rigged to inject a poison ricin pellet under Markov’s skin.
- In the 1940s the U.S. military experimented with using ricin as a possible warfare agent. In some reports ricin has possibly been used as a warfare agent in the 1980s in Iraq and more recently by terrorist organizations.
- Ricin poisoning is not contagious. Ricin-associated illness cannot be spread from person to person through casual contact. However, if you come into contact with someone who has ricin on their body or clothes, you could become exposed to it.
How ricin works
- Ricin works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually this is harmful to the whole body, and death may occur.
- Effects of ricin poisoning depend on whether ricin was inhaled, ingested, or injected.
Signs and symptoms of ricin exposure
- The major symptoms of ricin poisoning depend on the route of exposure and the dose received, though many organs may be affected in severe cases.
- Initial symptoms of ricin poisoning by inhalation may occur as early as 4- 8 hours and as late as 24 hours after exposure. Following ingestion of ricin, initial symptoms typically occur in less than 10 hours.
- Inhalation: Within a few hours of inhaling significant amounts of ricin, the likely symptoms would be respiratory distress (difficulty breathing), fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Heavy sweating may follow as well as fluid building up in the lungs (pulmonary edema). This would make breathing even more difficult, and the skin might turn blue. Excess fluid in the lungs would be diagnosed by x-ray or by listening to the chest with a stethoscope. Finally, low blood pressure and respiratory failure may occur, leading to death. In cases of known exposure to ricin, people having respiratory symptoms should seek medical care.
- Ingestion: If someone swallows a significant amount of ricin, he or she would likely develop vomiting and diarrhea that may become bloody. Severe dehydration may be the result, followed by low blood pressure. Other signs or symptoms may include seizures, and blood in the urine. Within several days, the person’s liver, spleen, and kidneys might stop working, and the person could die.
- Skin and eye exposure: Ricin is unlikely to be absorbed through normal skin. Contact with ricin powders or products may cause redness and pain of the skin and the eyes. However, if you touch ricin that is on your skin and then eat food with your hands or put your hands in your mouth, you may ingest some.
- Death from ricin poisoning could take place within 36 to 72 hours of exposure, depending on the route of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, or injection) and the dose received.