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Experts: Ricin is Naturally Occurring Poison

By Mallory Cooke
By mcooke@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn.--A man from Corinth, Mississippi is accused of sending letters laced with ricin to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker, (R) from Mississippi.

“In order to disperse this it’s gotta be somebody that knows what they’re doing,” said Dr. Mike Revelle, an emergency room doctor at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

Doctors said ricin can kill. “It’s not something that’s gonna be easily detected or that we’re gonna be suspicious of right away,” he said.

Dr. Revelle says the poison shuts down the body’s ability to make proteins. Death can take days. “As your body begins to shut down things don’t work well, diarrhea, shortness of breath” he said.

Ricin comes from a plant. It is made from the castor bean. “The ricin as I understand it is processed somehow from the beans to make a more concentrated form of the poison,” said Carol Reese, Western District Ornamental Specialist for UT Ag Extension.

Reese said they warn people not to eat castor beans. “It takes several beans to be fatal to an adult, but for a child it could be quite dangerous,” she said.

The poison can be inhaled, injected, or ingested. “Chances are if you’re not careful while you’re making it you could become a victim yourself,” said Dr. Revelle.

Experts said inhaling or injected ricin is the most deadly form. Doctors say it does not take much of the poison to kill a person.
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