- What is ricin?
- Where is ricin found, and how is it used?
- How are people exposed to ricin?
- How does ricin work?
- What are the signs and symptoms of ricin exposure?
- What is the treatment for ricin poisoning?
- How can someone know if they've been exposed to ricin?
- How can people protect themselves? What should someone do if they are exposed to ricin?
- For more information
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What ricin is
- Ricin is a poison that can be made from the waste 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. For example, it is not affected much by extreme conditions such as very hot or very cold temperatures.
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 some potential medical uses, such as bone marrow transplants and cancer treatment (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. Accidental exposure to ricin is highly unlikely.
- People can breathe in ricin mist or powder and be poisoned.
- Ricin can also get into water or food and then be swallowed.
- Pellets of ricin, or ricin dissolved in a liquid, can be injected into people's bodies.
- Depending on the route of exposure (such as injection or inhalation), as little as 500 micrograms of ricin could be enough to kill an adult. A 500-microgram dose of ricin would be about the size of the head of a pin. A greater amount would likely be needed to kill people if the ricin were swallowed.
- 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.
- Some reports have indicated that ricin may have been used in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and that quantities of ricin were found in Al Qaeda caves in Afghanistan.
- Ricin poisoning is not contagious. It cannot be spread from person to person through casual contact.
Next: How does ricin work?
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