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Emergency trainees mistakenly exposed to deadly ricin

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 Talon    716

Source: USA Today

Because of yet another mix-up with bioterror pathogens, a federal terrorism response training center in Alabama says it mistakenly exposed more than 9,600 firefighters, paramedics and other students to a deadly toxin over the past five years.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Center for Domestic Preparedness blames an outside laboratory for a series of shipping errors since 2011 that resulted in the first-responder training center using in its classes a potentially lethal form of ricin powder. The poison, made from castor beans, is capable of killing at small doses.  

The training center says it submitted order forms asking for a type of ricin extract that is unlikely to cause serious harm. But officials from Toxin Technology, the Florida company that sent nine shipments to the center since 2011, told USA TODAY that its ricin products were all accurately labeled as “RCA60” – a scientific name for the whole ricin toxin, which can be deadly.

It’s unclear why training center staff didn’t recognize for years that they were working with a far more dangerous substance. There is no antidote to treat ricin poisoning.

After issuing repeated statements to USA TODAY since Monday solely blaming the vendor, on Thursday FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate called for the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to investigate. The training center had already suspended all training with biological agents, which include training with a less-dangerous strain of anthrax.


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