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NCJ Number: 202046 Find in a Library
Title: Ricin Toxin: What Law Enforcement Needs to Know
Journal: Law Enforcement Technology  Volume:30  Issue:8  Dated:August 2003  Pages:16,18,22
Author(s): Doug Hanson
Date Published: August 2003
Page Count: 6
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the procedure for handling ricin, which is more than 1,000 times more poisonous than cyanide.
Abstract: In a terrorist attack, first responders may be confronted with ricin and will need to know how to handle exposed people and contaminated buildings and materials. Ricin is a protein material that is extracted from the beans of the common castor bean plant, Ricinus communis. Ricin is considered a biological agent because it is prepared from a biological source. Unlike most biological agents such as anthrax or plague, it is not a living organism and can’t reproduce and increase its presence after an attack. It is also considered a chemical agent because it is a chemical and much like sarin or other nerve agents in its properties. Ricin would most likely be used in a small-scale event. It can be prepared from a readily available, easy-to-handle material. The extraction procedure is simple and can be accomplished with relatively inexpensive laboratory equipment. In its pure form, an amount of ricin toxin no bigger than a grain of table salt can kill an adult. With ricin exposure through aerosol inhalation, general symptoms do not appear for the first 18 to 24 hours. Initial symptoms are weakness, fever, cough, and pulmonary edema. Death occurs within 2 to 3 days from severe respiratory distress. Exposure by ingestion produces abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, followed by severe dehydration, increased urine production, and a significant decrease in blood pressure. There is no effective treatment for ricin poisoning. Not all exposures result in death and some patients do recover. While investigating a site that is suspected of producing ricin, first responders should at a minimum wear a gas mask equipped with appropriately rated cartridge filters, eye protection, latex gloves, and appropriate protective clothing. There are several on-site ricin detection devices available. It is up to individual law enforcement and first responder groups to determine whether ricin test kits are warranted in their arsenal of weapons against terrorist attacks. There have been no episodes where ricin has been used in a real terrorist incident.
Main Term(s): Biological weapons; Emergency procedures
Index Term(s): Chemical irritants; Disaster procedures; Police emergency procedures; Subversive activities; Terrorist weapons; Weapons
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