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How Can People 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), 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 much greater amount would be needed to kill people if the ricin were inhaled (breathed in) or swallowed.
     
  • Ricin poisoning is not contagious. It cannot be spread from person to person through casual contact.
     
  • 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.

 

National Terror Alert Resource & Information Center 2003

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What is Ricin?
Where is it found?
How Exposure Occurs
How does Ricin work?
Signs and Symptoms
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