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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs