Ricin is a byproduct of castor beans which is a toxic plant protein where there is no antidote. Terrorism or other criminal activity can be the source of ricin poisoning. Castor bean contains ricin which is toxic and not intended as food and should not be ingested. Ricin is made from the leftover mash after the castor beans are processed as oil. Castor oil is used for the preparation of leather products or an animal lubricant, but it has been used as laxative and taken orally in the past.
If foods contaminated with ricin or castor oil are accidentally eaten, it can cause internal bleeding, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, liver and kidney failure, circulatory failure and a rapid heartbeat.
If castor beans are swallowed, the toxic effects are not severe but it would be severe if the beans are chewed. Breathing the dust of ricin can cause nausea, difficulty breathing, cyanosis, coughing, weakness, muscle aches and chest pain. Just like with any form of poisoning, proper measures must be carried. All you have to do is register for first aid training today.
Uses of castor beans
The castor bean oil is odorless, quick-drying and water-resistant which makes it a good protectant. This oil is used together with plant-based oil varnishes such as linseed and tung oil. The dehydrated oil is used for coating surfaces of upholstered fabrics, leather as well as insulation and food containers.
Castor oil is the primary ingredient used for the manufacturing of nylon. Castor oil is an effective industrial lubricant particularly in motors and fast moving machinery.
Castor oil is used for manufacturing artificial fruit flavors. The oil is also used as a laxative and purgative in clearing the digestive tract and why taken by a spoonful, it can induce vomiting.
After the oil has been removed from the castor beans, the remaining seed hulls are compacted and formed into “cakes” and made into high quality fertilizers.
Treatment and home remedies of ricin poisoning
- Wear protective clothing and respiratory ventilators when dealing with individuals that were poisoned by ricin.
- Evacuate the area if there is presence of ricin and start decontamination procedure immediately by removing the clothing, cutting off the clothing not easily removed and then wash the skin with soap and water.
- Use rubber gloves in protecting the hands and gather the clothing. Place the contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal securely.
- If ricin was inhaled or ingested, seek medical help immediately. Avoid fluids and do not induce the individual to vomiting.
- If eyes are exposed to ricin, rinse the eyes with water for 10-15 minutes, remove contact lenses if there are any and dispose them properly. Wash glasses with soap and water before putting them back to the eyes.