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Ricin: The Chemical and the Threat

Author(s): Christopher Burnett

Is there a treatment for ricin exposure?

There are no vaccines or antidotes for ricin poisoning. The first step in treatment is to prevent any residual ricin from entering the victim’s bloodstream. Depending on the mode of exposure, steps might include flushing the eyes or flushing the stomach with activated charcoal. It is also critical to minimize the physiological effects of the poison. Depending on the route of entry, treatment can include helping the person breath, providing intravenous fluids, or administering medications to control seizures or low blood pressure.
 
Outside of incidental ingestion of castor beans, accidental exposure to ricin is unlikely. A deliberate act is required to extract and refine ricin, and use as poison. That is why ricin exposure is usually viewed and investigated within the context of war or terrorism.
 
As with any unknown or suspicious substance, it is important to take proper precautions and minimize exposure to ricin. For more information about ricin and what to do in the case of a possible exposure, visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/facts.asp or Baylor College of Medicine at http://www.bcm.edu/news/item.cfm?newsID=7056.