Ricin Poisoning

Ricin is a stable toxin easily made from the mash that remains after processing castor beans (Ricinus communis) for oil.

Castor oil was once used as an oral laxative, but is now used mainly as an industrial lubricant and for preparing leather products. Castor beans are grown agriculturally worldwide and the plants grow wildly in arid parts of the United States. Castor beans are slightly larger than pinto beans, darkly colored with light mottling, and have a small light-brown cap at one end. They have been described as looking like blood-engorged ticks. The beans are not normally used as food.

Poisoning can occur following inhalation, ingestion, or injection of ricin toxin from castor beans.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Facts about Ricin

Provider Information

This is a Wisconsin disease surveillance category I disease:

  • Report IMMEDIATELY by TELEPHONE to the patient's local public health department upon identification of a confirmed or suspected case. The local health department shall then notify the state epidemiologist immediately of any confirmed or suspected cases. Submit a case report within 24 hours submit a case report electronically through the Wisconsin Electronic Surveillance System (WEDSS), by mail or fax using an Acute and Communicable Disease case report, F44151 (Word) or by other means.
  • Information on communicable disease reporting

Wisconsin case reporting and public health follow-up guidelines:

Case Reporting and Investigation Protocol (EpiNet): Ricin poisoning, P-01923 (PDF)

Questions about Ricin Poisoning? Contact us!
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Last Revised: September 2, 2021