RealNews

Scientists Play Down Ricin's Lethal Threat

Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov parked his green Citroen in a lot near London’s Waterloo Bridge and walked to a nearby bus stop to catch a ride. As he stood in line, he suddenly felt a sharp jab of pain in his upper thigh. He turned and saw a man bending over to pick up a dropped umbrella. “Sorry,” the man mumbled. Four days later, on Sept. 11, 1978, Markov died of multiple organ failure caused by a lethal injection of ricin, a deadly poison that had filled a tiny capsule mounted in the tip of the stranger’s umbrella. The assassination, orchestrated by the Soviet KGB, remains history’s most chilling example of ricin’s quick and ruthless killing power. The discovery of ricin Monday in the office of Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) may have recalled the Markov affair and triggered widespread anxiety on Capitol Hill, but it also highlights a more mundane reality: Ricin’s dangers do not approach those of other lethal agents such as Ebola or smallpox virus, or the anthrax spores that were sent to Democratic Sens. Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) and Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) two years ago. Full Story

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