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Friday, February 29, 2008

Ricin Poison Found in Las Vegas Hotel Room

[Update on this post found here]

On February 14, 2008, a man staying at a Las Vegas extended stay hotel called for help saying he was suffering from respiratory distress.

Managers of the hotel started eviction proceedings because the man was gone and not paying his rent and when one of his relatives came for his belongings, they discovered ricin in the room.

Tests confirmed it was ricin but authorities do not know it got into the room, as of now.

The man himself is still in critical condition and cannot tell the police where the ricin came from and he had also had animals in the room with him, two of which are fine and one was found dead although there is no evidence the animal died of ricin exposure.

Ricin, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), is a poison:

* Ricin is a poison that can be made from the waste left over from processing castor beans.
* It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.
* It is a stable substance. For example, it is not affected much by extreme conditions such as very hot or very cold temperatures.

Interestingly enough though, from that same CDC page we find out that it takes a "deliberate act" to make ricin and use it to poison people and accidental exposure to ricin is highly unlikely.

Ricin gets inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually death may occur.

It only takes 500 micrograms of the toxin -- an amount the size of the head of a pin.

According to Capt. Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, "We did have enough ricin to be of concern."

There have been other reported cases involving ricin in the United States. In January 2005, the FBI arrested an Ocala, Florida, man with no known ties to terrorists or extremists after agents found ricin in the home he lives in with his mother.

Ricin was found in February 2004 in the mailroom of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. The mailroom handles correspondence addressed to U.S. lawmakers

In this case, the FBI is treating the case as a criminal investigation and says that terrorism is not suspected.

So how did ricin get into the room and since it takes a deliberate act to make and poison someone, how did the man in the hospital get poisoned?

Questions that might not be answered if the man does not recover.