CBS News has reported that the Saudi’s have uncovered an Al Qaeda plot to possibly poison food in the US with ricin and cyanides. Apparently the plan is to simultaneously attack hotels and restaurants over a single weekend. Should that occur, most victims would be unaware of their exposure until they come down with the symptoms hours later.
The information from the Saudi sources has been deemed “credible” and US Authorities have briefed a small group of corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries about it. Both ricin and cyanides can also be used to contaminate drinking water although this has not been disclosed in the report just issued.
Ricin is a powerful poison made from castor beans. It has been on the “watch list” of bioterrorism agents for many years as it is relatively easy to make. It can be made as a powder, a mist or a pallet and can be dissolved in water. It has been used in an aborted terrorist attack in the US previously as reported in an excellent bulletin from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control which I recommend you read (http://www.scdhec.gov/administration/library/ML-025273.pdf)
The effects of ricin poisoning are serious and death may occur within 36-72 hours if the victim is untreated,
Cyanides too can be a threat and many a murder mystery book has been written where the killer used cyanide to kill the victim. Cyanide can come in many forms, the most dangerous are those salts formed with various metals. Cyanides can be used to contaminate food and water, and in the wrong hands can cause considerable damage.
Even limited amounts of cyanide ingested through our food or drinking water over years can accumulate in our bodies and can cause significant damage to our health. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has established a Maximum Contaminant Level, (MCL) which must not be exceeded. The MCL for cyanide is 0.2 milligram per liter or 200 parts per billion (ppb).
In 2008 a man was found dead inside a Denver hotel with a bag containing Sodium /cyanide. He had died from cyanide poisoning. The bag contained about 1 lb of the substances – enough to kills hundreds of people according to the Denver Police at the time.
My comments are not intended to scare people. Even though the threat exists, the likelihood of you being a victim is very small.
However, if either of these two agents (and a multitude of other dangerous contaminants) get into the drinking water you will be best protected by having a well designed water distiller at home and work. Distillation is the single most effective method of water treatment. The point is that if you have a water distiller now you are drinking pure distilled water and also have the “best insurance possible” in the event that something happens to the tap water coming into your home or business.