Good Question

Apr 25, 2013 7:36 PM by John Reger

GQ: What is ricin?

We've been updating you on the investigation of letters containing ricin that were intercepted before they reached some public figures, including the President. Those incidents raised this Good Question: What is ricin?

Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans, which come from a plant and are technically not even beans, but seeds.

The seeds can be safely ground into castor oil, which many people use for health benefits. Ricin is a byproduct of the grinding process and can be a powder, a mist or pellet.

If an amount of ricin just the size of a pinpoint is inhaled or injected, it can kill a person in 36 to 48 hours through internal bleeding and organ failure. There is no antidote but immediate medical care can minimize the effects.

People can swallow castor seeds whole without much trouble because the shell of the seed is not digestible.

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