Suspicious letters mailed to Spokane post office laced with ricin

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by SHAWN CHITNIS & OTHELLO RICHARDS & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on May 16, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 1:29 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Preliminary results show two suspicious letters sent to a Downtown Spokane post office on Wednesday were laced with ricin.

The American Postal Workers Union said one letter was addressed to the Spokane Post Office; the other was addressed to a federal judge in Spokane. Both letters were postmarked May 14.

The organization added there is no reason to believe any employees are at risk from handling the letters.  Union leaders said the results show the ricin was not in a form that could be inhaled or ingested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider ricin to be one of the deadliest toxins known to man. The poison is found naturally in castor beans and the plant is readily available. Castor beans are typically processed to make castor oil according to the CDC. Ricin can be made from the left over waste material.

The Seattle division of the FBI confirmed Thursday it is aware of threatening letters sent to a postal facility. However, FBI leaders refused to confirm whether there was ricin found at the post office and does not know of any other letters that were sent to Spokane.

“The FBI is working with law enforcement partners including USPIS [United States Postal Inspection Service] to investigate the source of the letters,” said FBI spokesperson Ayn Sandolo Dietrich.

Law enforcement agencies are continuing to assess and address potential threats but are not aware of any other letters.

The post office facility is still open but operating with appropriate precautions.
Health officials said it would take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people. People can be exposure could through the air, food or water according to CDC experts. They warn that a small amount can shutdown someone’s organs and cause death.

Castro beans do have legitimate medical uses. Scientists have studied their ability to suppress cancer tumors.

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