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Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a person exposed to ricin may be admitted to the hospital for monitoring.


The only effective prevention against a biological attack with ricin is avoidance; unfortunately, no antidote or vaccine exists. Currently, investigations are ongoing for possible vaccines and ricin inhibitors. Protective masks have been shown to be effective in preventing toxicity during an aerosol attack.

Although ricin is not the ideal biological warfare agent, it remains a threat, primarily as a food and water contaminant. Ricin is widely available and easily produced. With the increasing number of biological threats, hoaxes, and "how to" Internet resources available, this threat has the potential to become reality. Therefore, being familiar with ricin's characteristics is important.


Depending on the dose and the route, death can occur within 36-72 hours following the time of exposure. If death has not occurred within 3-5 days from the time of exposure, recovery is likely.

Support Groups and Counseling

Local or regional poison control centers may be able to provide more information about ricin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are additional resources for informational material about ricin and its toxic effects. (See For More Information.)

For More Information

Regional Poison Control Center
(800) 222-1222
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Public Inquiry c/o Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Planning
Mailstop C-18
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
(888) 246-2675
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Division of Toxicology
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop E-29
Atlanta, GA 30333
(888) 422-8737

Web Links

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Facts About Ricin 


U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Ricin 

Homeland Security: National Terror Alert Resource & Information Center, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Ricin

MedlinePlus, Chemical Weapons

Web Links


Media file 1: Chemical Terrorism Agents and Syndromes. Signs and symptoms. Chart courtesy of North Carolina Statewide Program for Infection Control and Epidemiology (SPICE), copyright University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Media type:  Acrobat PDF

Synonyms and Keywords

ricin , Ricinus communis, R communis, plant toxin, toxin, toxic material, toxic agent, castor plant, castor oil, castor beans, beans of the castor plant, waste mash, poison, poisonous substance, powder, pellet, inhaled aerosol, mist, biological terrorism, biological warfare, weapon of mass destruction, WMD, chemical terrorism agent

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WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed on August 10, 2005

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