Two packages laced with a suspicious substance have been found at a Pentagon mail screening facility on Monday, according to Military Times.
Initial test results suggest that the packages, one addressed to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and the other to Navy’s top officer Admiral John Richardson, contain ricin.
Ricin is a poison naturally found in castor beans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidental exposure to ricin is highly unlikely except through ingestion of castor beans.
Castor beans that are swallowed whole and without damage to the seed coat may pass harmlessly through the system, but if the coat is broken or chewed, the poison can enter the body.
The CDC said that it actually entails a deliberate act to make ricin a poison that can injure and possibly kill people.
The toxic compound can be manufactured into a weapon in the form of a mist, powder, or pellet. The purified powder form, however, is one of the easiest to manufacture, and is deadly.
If ingested, the substance can cause vomiting, nausea and internal bleeding of the stomach and intestines, which could worsen into failure of the liver, spleen and kidney.
Less than a pinpoint of injected, inhaled or ingested ricin can kill a person within 36 to 48 hours of exposure as a result of the collapse of the respiratory and circulatory systems.
No antidote currently exists for ricin. CDC advised that those who may have been exposed to the poison should remove their clothing, rapidly wash their entire body with soap and water, and seek medical care as soon as possible.
Individuals who have ingested ricin should not be induced to vomit or given fluids to drink.
“Care could include such measures as helping victims breathe, giving them intravenous fluids (fluids given through a needle inserted into a vein), giving them medications to treat conditions such as seizure and low blood pressure, flushing their stomachs with activated charcoal (if the ricin has been very recently ingested), or washing out their eyes with water if their eyes are irritated,” the CDC said.
Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said that the suspicious packages were detected by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. They never made their way into the Pentagon.
Initial tests show the packages were positive for ricin but the FBI is conducting further analysis. Manning said that all US Postal Service mails received at Pentagon’s remote screening facility is currently under quarantine and do not pose any threat to Pentagon personnel.