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Monday, February 02, 2004

Ricin found in Senate Mailroom

Does that count as "finding WMD"?
CNN: Preliminary tests on a white, powdery substance found in the mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist indicate the presence of the deadly substance ricin, a Homeland Security official said Monday.

A U.S. Capitol police spokeswoman said the department is investigating the matter but would not comment on the substance found, saying only that preliminary tests were positive for a "hazardous substance."

The substance is to be tested further at the Army research laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those results could be back as soon as Tuesday.

Authorities said people should stay clear of the south side of the fourth floor of the Dirksen Senate Office building...

Authorities stressed the ricin results were preliminary and that field tests often prove unreliable. They also pointed out that though ricin is an effective weapon against a single person, it is difficult to use against large numbers of people at once.

Ricin is a natural, highly toxic compound that comes from castor beans, used to make castor oil. It can be inhaled, ingested or injected.

There is no known antidote, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One milligram of ricin, a dose the size of the head of a pin, can kill an adult.

If inhaled, ricin can cause death in 36 to 48 hours from failure of the respiratory and circulatory systems.

If ingested, it causes nausea, vomiting and bleeding of the stomach and intestines, followed by failure of the liver, spleen and kidneys, and death by collapse of the circulatory system.

Injected ricin immediately kills the muscles and lymph nodes near the site of the injection. Failure of the major organs and death usually follows, the CDC said.

In a notorious Cold War assassination, Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, living in London, England, was killed in 1978 by a poison dart filled with ricin and fired from an umbrella.