Ricin is a toxin produced by the castor bean plant.
Ricin is a naturally occurring substance
in the castor bean plant. It is made from waste left over
the beans in the production of castor oil, which is used mainly
in industry and
medicines. Obtaining ricin is a simple process of extraction
after the castor oil has been removed. Ricin is a highly toxic
has limited value as a harmful biological agent.
Harmful biological agents are
generally divided into either infectious agents or non-infectious
- pathogenic bacteria
- funguses, such as anthrax or smallpox.
agents are called "toxins" and
are produced from:
- infectious agents
- other living organisms and plants
infectious biological agents such as smallpox, ricin’s
usefulness as a weapon is limited . Not only is a large amount
of ricin necessary to produce the desired effect, it does not convert
easily to an aerosol form, and it does not grow and spread. It is
As a harmful biological agent, ricin can be inhaled, injected or ingested.
Though injection would only require a very small amount, a much larger dose
would be needed
or ingested. The appearance and type of symptoms depend on the type of exposure.
Symptoms by inhalation may occur within 8 hours; symptoms by ingestion typically
occur in less than 6 hours. Inhalation symptoms would typically include respiratory
distress, fever, cough, tightness in the chest, and nausea. Death may be caused
by low blood pressure and respiratory failure, and might occur 36 to 72 hours
from the time of exposure.
Ricin Fact Sheet Emergency
Preparedness & Response, Centers for Disease Control and
Also available in Spanish and with a downlodable PDF version for
is Ricin? Marshall Brain
Plant Database Ricinus communis (Castor bean)
Play Down Ricin's Lethal Threat Guy Gugliotta, Washington
Post, Page A07, Feb 4, 2004.
Toxin from Castor Bean Plant Cornell University Poisonous
Plants Information Database
Ricin Fact Sheet for Medical Providers
E-medicine CBRNE - Ricin
Online Information Server Office of the Surgeon General.
Search engine, relevant Army Field Manuals in PDF format, full
text of government documents. Archives include links to recent
relevant news articles.
Chemical and Biological Warfare Tracer Bullet
Library of Congress Science Reference Services
Relevant books on the shelf in the Science
Reference Collection include:
- Croddy, Eric. Chemical and biological warfare: a comprehensive
survey for the concerned citizen. New York, Springer-Verlag, c2002.
306 p. UG447.C755 2002.
- Biological agents. In PDR guide to biological and
chemical warfare response. Edited by David W. Sifton and Gwynned L. Kelly. Montvale,
N.J., Thomson/Physicians' Desk Reference, c2002. p. 3-41. RA648
February 10, 2004