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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ricin: Technical Background and Potential Role in Terrorism

Dana A. Shea
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Frank Gottron
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

In April 2013, envelopes sent to President Obama and a U.S. Senator tested positive for ricin, a deadly toxin derived from castor beans. Ricin has been identified as a potential bioweapon. Ricin is extremely toxic by ingestion, inhalation, and injection. No treatment or prophylaxis currently exists, though research into new therapies and vaccines against ricin exposure continues. Additionally, research to improve ricin detection is ongoing. Although governments have investigated ricin’s potential use as a military weapon, individuals have used ricin in small quantities. Most experts believe that ricin would be difficult to use as a weapon of mass destruction, but do not discount its potential as a weapon of terror. Ricin is a select agent, and its possession, transfer, or use is regulated under domestic and international law. This report will not be updated.

Date of Report: April 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: RS21383
Price: $19.95

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