Ricin: Technical Background and Potential Role in Terrorism [Updated February 4, 2004] [open pdf - 37KB]
"On February 2, 2004, the deadly toxin ricin was detected in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Ricin, derived from castor beans, has been identified as a potential bioweapon. Ricin is extremely toxic by ingestion, inhalation and injection, causing organ damage that can lead to death. While research continues on new therapies and vaccines against ricin exposure, no approved treatments or prophylaxis for human use currently exist. Research to develop sensitive, portable detectors capable of detecting the release of ricin is ongoing. Although ricin was investigated as a potential military weapon, it has predominantly been used in small quantities against specific individuals. Most experts believe that ricin would be difficult to use as a weapon of mass destruction, but do not discount its potential as a weapon of terror. Ricin is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Select Agent list, and its possession, transfer, or use, is regulated under domestic and international law. This report will be updated as events warrant."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21383
U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Center: http://www.fpc.state.gov/