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Substance In Irvine Not Biotoxin

Workers Were Given Decontamination Showers

Posted: 5:55 p.m. PDT October 10, 2001

Updated: 9:40 p.m. PDT October 10, 2001

IRVINE, Calif. -- Tests revealed Wednesday night that a mysterious substance found at an Irvine computer business was not toxic.

According to television news reports, an employee of Quickstart discovered a white powdery substance on his desk Wednesday morning and notified authorities because he didn't know what it was.

After an inconclusive test, authorities thought the substance could be a form of castor bean protein, called ricin, which can be lethal to humans if ingested, according to a local news wire.

The substance was reportedly taken to a labratory in San Diego for analysis, where a conclusive report was released late Wednesday night, according to wire services.

In the meantime, the entire area was cordoned off and 25 people were sent to outdoor decontamination tents and showers that were set up outside the building, as hazmat officials hosed down the employees one by one, CBS2 News reported.

Workers didn't seem overly concerned about the incident. One woman, walking by the cameras with drenched hair, told CBS2 News that it's been an "unusual day," but wasn't concerned that she'd been exposed to a hazardous substance.

Another employee said that he doesn't think the company is a likely target, so he's "not too concerned," and yet another said that he's numb to it all, and although it's bothersome, something like this is "bound to happen."

A person who ingests ricin, according to Cornell University researchers, would bleed to death internally. Within several days, a news service reported, the patient would suffer abdominable pain, vomiting, diarrhea, followed by severe dehydration, a decrease in urine and decreased blood pressure. If death hasn't occurred within 3-5 days, the victim usually recovers, according to the wire report.

Copyright 2001 by Channel 2000

-- PHO (, October 11, 2001


Every health department and law enforcement agency in the nation is being swamped with calls about unknown dusts...ranging from the possible (however unlikely) to the simply silly. My favorite is the workplace, Florida I think, that grew concerned because of what turned out to be normal construction dust/plaster dust...coming from a construction site immediately adjacent.

It's been busy here; during weeks like this I wish that joker, Alex G. Bell, had gone into another line of work instead of inventing the damn telephone (grin). The calls just won't stop.

-- Andre Weltman (, October 11, 2001.

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