Ricin is lethal in minute doses if swallowed, inhaled or injected. It is 6,000 times more potent than cyanide, with no known antidote.
Authorities at the Pentagon found at least two packages suspected of containing ricin, a spokesman said Tuesday, with the news coming amid a scare at Sen. Ted Cruz’s office in Houston involving a “white powdery substance” that turned out to not be hazardous, FOX NEWS reports.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed to Fox News that two packages — addressed to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson — are suspected of containing ricin.
“On Monday, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility. All USPS mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility yesterday is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel.” ~ Col. Rob Manning
A defense official said the packages were addressed to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Navy chief Admiral John Richardson.
U.S. Secret Service said it had received a “suspicious envelope” addressed to President Trump the day before. The agency said the envelope “was not received at the White House, nor did it ever enter the White House. We are working jointly with our law enforcement partners to fully investigate this matter.”
Ricin (/ˈraɪsɪn/ RY-sin), a lectin (a carbohydrate-binding protein) produced in the seeds of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, is a highly potent toxin. A dose of purified ricin powder the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. The median lethal dose (LD50) of ricin is around 22 micrograms per kilogram of body weight if the exposure is from injection or inhalation.
- 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.
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.
Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Brussels that the substance was castor seeds.
On Tuesday, Pentagon officials said two envelopes that had been suspected of containing ricin were isolated at a Pentagon mail screening facility, then sent to the FBI. They said one envelope was addressed to Mattis, the other to the chief of the U.S. Navy, Adm. John Richardson. No one was injured.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if castor seeds are swallowed the released ricin can cause injury.
I have no doubt that we will never get the truth of what is going on and who is behind it, but they confirmed it was ricin and it was sent to the Pentagon which makes that a federal terrorist attack on the Pentagon, per the legally definition of terrorism.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.