An envelope addressed to the White House and intercepted by US authorities contained a substance identified as ricin, a deadly poison that appeared to have been sent from Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Saturday.
The RCMP “has received a request for assistance from the FBI in connection with a suspicious letter sent to the White House,” an RCMP spokesman said.
“The FBI conducted an analysis on the substance found in the envelope. This report indicated the presence of ricin, a toxic substance,” the RCMP added.
The RCMP said that it is working with the FBI, but declined to discuss further details.
The envelope was intercepted at a government mail center before it arrived at the White House.
Asked about the reports, the FBI said that the agency and “US Secret Service and US Postal Inspection Service partners are investigating a suspicious letter received at a US government mail facility. At this time, there is no known threat to public safety.”
The White House and US Secret Service declined to comment.
Ricin is found naturally in castor beans, but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon.
According to guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it “works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually this is harmful to the whole body, and death may occur.”
Death from ricin poisoning, the CDC said, can “take place within 36 to 72 hours of exposure,” depending on the dosage and whether the poison was inhaled, ingested or injected.
There have been numerous incidents involving envelopes mailed with ricin to US officials.
In 2018, a Utah man, William Clyde Allen III, was indicted for making ricin-related threats, including mailing a threat against Trump and other federal officials including FBI Director Christopher Wray, with all the letters “containing castor bean material.”
Allen remains in custody.
Two people were convicted in separate incidents of sending ricin-tainted letters to then-US president Barack Obama.
In May 2014, a Mississippi man, James Everett Dutschke, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to sending letters with the deadly substance to Obama, as well as a US senator and a state judge.
In July 2014, a Texas actor was sentenced to 18 years for mailing letters containing ricin to Obama and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Additional reporting by the Guardian
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