News / USA

Ricin: A Deadly Weapon

Bulgarian dissident and correspondent Georgi Markov is shown in this undated handout picture.
Bulgarian dissident and correspondent Georgi Markov is shown in this undated handout picture.
VOA News
It was known as the "umbrella death" -- the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident, novelist and journalist Georgi Markov. He was killed in London by the deadly poison ricin, delivered into the back of his thigh by a man with an umbrella.

Markov, a reporter who worked at times with Radio Free Europe, the BBC and other news organizations during his career, had angered officials in the Soviet KGB and the Bulgarian secret service. Less than a week after the man jabbed him with the umbrella near London’s Waterloo Bridge, Markov was dead from multiple failure of his internal organs.  

Tests later showed the mysterious man had used the umbrella to inject a tiny pellet containing Ricin into Markov’s leg. His assassination became the most infamous example of a using ricin as a murder weapon.

The toxic substance is now being investigated by top U.S. officials because letters believed laced with the deadly poison have turned up addressed to President Barack Obama and members of Congress.

What is ricin?

Ricin is a highly toxic poison that is naturally produced when castor beans are processed for their oil. The toxin is part of the waste from making the oil and can be a powder, a mist or a pellet, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If inhaled, injected or ingested, an extremely small dose of ricin – often only a drop -- can quickly produce symptoms and kill a person within 36 to 48 hours due to respiratory or circulatory system failure.  There is no known cure.

The major symptoms depend on the means of exposure and include breathing difficulties, fever, coughing and nausea when ricin is inhaled.  

If significant amounts of the poison are swallowed, vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration and possible seizures can follow.  Over several days, liver, spleen and kidney failure could result in death.

Ricin symptoms are not contagious and the CDC says it would take "a deliberate act" to make the substance and "use it to poison people."  Ricin is not typically absorbed through the skin and unintentional exposure is unlikely.  Medical experts point out it is a less potent killer than anthrax.

Other cases


Officials dressed in protective suits prepare to enter the closed Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, to retreive mail that could be contaminated, Feb. 4, 2004.Officials dressed in protective suits prepare to enter the closed Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, to retreive mail that could be contaminated, Feb. 4, 2004.
x
Officials dressed in protective suits prepare to enter the closed Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, to retreive mail that could be contaminated, Feb. 4, 2004.
Officials dressed in protective suits prepare to enter the closed Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, to retreive mail that could be contaminated, Feb. 4, 2004.
Letters tainted with anthrax appeared in post offices, newsrooms and U.S. congressional offices after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, resulting in five deaths and several illnesses.

​Ricin previously turned up in a U.S. Senate mailroom in 2004, forcing authorities to temporarily shut down two Senate office buildings.

In 2003, Islamist militants were arrested in Britain for planning to put ricin in food on a British military base.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid