Ricin - Protection

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What are your fears and concerns about ricin exposure? How would you protect yourself?

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How you can protect yourself, and what to do if you are exposed to ricin

  • Get fresh air right away by leaving the area where the ricin was released.
    • If the ricin release was outside, move away from the area where the ricin was released.
    • If the ricin release was indoors, get out of the building.
  • If you are near a release of ricin, emergency coordinators may tell you to either evacuate the area or to "shelter in place" inside a building to avoid being exposed to the chemical. For more information on evacuation during a chemical emergency, see Facts About Evacuation. For more information on sheltering in place during a chemical emergency, see Facts About Sheltering in Place.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to ricin, you should remove your clothing, rapidly wash your entire body with soap and water, and get medical care as quickly as possible.
  • Removing your clothing:
    • Quickly take off clothing that may have ricin on it. Any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead of pulled over the head.
    • If you are helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas, and remove the clothing as quickly as possible.
  • Washing yourself:
    • As quickly as possible, wash any ricin from your skin with large amounts of soap and water. Washing with soap and water will help protect people from any chemicals on their bodies.
    • If your eyes are burning or your vision is blurred, rinse your eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them and put them with the contaminated clothing. Do not put the contacts back in your eyes (even if they are not disposable contacts). If you wear eyeglasses, wash them with soap and water. You can put your eyeglasses back on after you wash them.
  • Disposing of your clothes:
    • After you have washed yourself, place your clothing inside a plastic bag. Avoid touching contaminated areas of the clothing. If you can't avoid touching contaminated areas, or you aren't sure where the contaminated areas are, wear rubber gloves, turn the bag inside out and use it to pick up the clothing, or put the clothing in the bag using tongs, tool handles, sticks, or similar objects. Anything that touches the contaminated clothing should also be placed in the bag. If you wear contacts, put them in the plastic bag, too.
    • Seal the bag, and then seal that bag inside another plastic bag. Disposing of your clothing in this way will help protect you and other people from any chemicals that might be on your clothes.
    • When the local or state health department or emergency personnel arrive, tell them what you did with your clothes. The health department or emergency personnel will arrange for further disposal. Do not handle the plastic bags yourself.
  • For more information about cleaning your body and disposing of your clothes after a chemical release, see Chemical Agents: Facts About Personal Cleaning and Disposal of Contaminated Clothing.
  • If someone has ingested ricin, do not induce vomiting or give fluids to drink.
  • Seek medical attention right away. Consider dialing 911 and explaining what has happened.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: Worrywart, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: December 02

Ever since I heard about this stuff, I have had a nagging worry about it. What if someone puts it in things like flour or sugar or salt at the grocery store? Obviously you would always check containers for possible tampering, but since you can die with just a few small grains, it would be so hard to detect. The odds are very slim, I know.

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