The U.S. Secret Service has confirmed that a ricin-laced letter addressed to the President was intercepted at the remote White House mail screening facility on Tuesday. The letter contained a “granular substance” and preliminary field tests confirmed the substance was ricin, which has the potential to be toxic even in small amounts.
Another letter, which also field tested positive for ricin, was mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. That letter was intercepted at the remote Senate mail screening facility. Other Washington lawmakers who have also received suspicious letters or packages include Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.
In a statement earlier today, the FBI said that the investigation is ongoing and there be more letters that will be received. The spokesperson said there is no indication of any connection to the Boston Marathon attacks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ricin is a poison that comes from castor beans. It is part of the waste left over when castor oil is made from the beans and can be found in the form of powder, mist, a pellet or dissolved in water. The CDC reports that U.S. military had experimented in the 1940’s with using ricin as a warfare agent.
When exposure to ricin occurs, the poison gets inside the cells of the body and prevents the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. As more and more cells die, death may occur. Ricin can enter a person’s system through inhalation, ingestion or through skin and eye contact. There is no known antidote for ricin so if someone is exposed, it is imperative to get the ricin off or out of the body as quickly as possible. Remove all clothing (cutting off clothing that needs to be pulled over the head), rapidly wash entire body with soap and water and seek medical care immediately.
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