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article imageNew York City Mayor Bloomberg targeted with ricin letter

By Michael Krebs     May 30, 2013 in Politics
New York - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appears to have been the target of a ricin attack after a letter his office received tested positive for the deadly toxin.
Authorities have confirmed that letters sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and to Mark Glaze, the director of Bloomberg-funded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, contained traces of the deadly toxin ricin, as The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The attack appears to have been politically motivated, as the contents of the letter were threatening due to the mayor's stance on gun control. The ricin found in the letters was described by New York Police Department’s spokesman, Paul J. Browne as a “pink, orange oily substance,” indicating that the toxin had not been fully milled into a more dangerous powder.
Ricin is very effective as an assassination agent, however, even in powder form, it is not seen as mass-casualty poison. Ricin's toxicity and effectiveness is fairly well known, and just 3 milligrams are enough to kill an adult human being, according to a report from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
"While ricin could be delivered in liquid/solvent form, generating a large scale aerosol is achieved best with a dry powder consisting of very small particles," the authors of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies stated. "Laboratory tests performed in the United States found that about 40 micrograms per kilogram of animal weight (rhesus monkeys) were sufficient to cause death through the inhaled route. Extrapolated in human terms, this would be equivalent to an (accumulated) lethal dose of about 3 milligrams for the average adult. This is clearly a potent toxin, although it is not much more toxic than the chemical VX nerve agent (which is lethal at about 10-15 milligrams) and is far less toxic than botulinum toxin, the world's most toxic substance."
Ricin is made from castor beans. It is found in the "mash" byproduct in the process of extracting castor oil from the beans. Ricin presents a challenge to authorities in that it is relatively abundant in nature, and the procedures for extracting the toxin are well-known and published freely. However, creating a highly toxic dose requires expertise and a milling technology that is not readily available.
There were no reported injuries in the ricin attacks on Bloomberg's office or on Glaze's office, but police who handled the Bloomberg letter did exhibit mild signs of ricin exposure, including diarrhea.
More about Michael bloomberg, Ricin, Guns, NRA, Poison
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