Law enforcement officials have reportedly arrested a woman suspected of sending ricin, a biological agent that is fatal at even small doses when ingested or inhaled, to President Donald Trump in an envelope earlier this week, authorities said Sunday afternoon.
According to CNN, the woman was detained by Customs and Border Patrol agents while trying to cross into New York via the Canadian border, and was carrying a weapon with her at the time she was arrested. The New York Times, citing “two American officials,” reports that the woman is a Canadian national who was deported in 2019 after engaging in criminal activity and overstaying a visa.
The envelope ultimately failed to reach the White House, as it was discovered at a mail screening facility outside the premises, reports The New York Times. Furthermore, the woman is suspected of sending two other envelopes—one of them addressed to a sheriff’s department in Texas, and the other to an unspecified detention center.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations confirmed Saturday that it was investigating a “suspicious letter” with the help of the Secret Service and U.S. Postal Service Investigators, but maintained that there was “no threat to public safety.”
CNN, citing a “person familiar with the matter,” reports that the envelope was mailed from Quebec, Canada. The news agency also notes, however, that the unnamed woman is expected to face charges in the U.S. for allegedly sending the dangerous substance.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ricin is created using the waste from processing castor beans, which are the source of castor oil, and it is considered a biological weapon that is extremely dangerous if inhaled or ingested. There is no antidote for ricin poisoning.
“Signs and symptoms of ricin poisoning depend on whether a person inhales or ingests ricin. Inhaled ricin causes fever, chest tightness, cough and severe respiratory problems, including fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Ingested ricin causes intestinal bleeding and organ damage. The poison can kill within three days of exposure. Even a small amount of ricin may be fatal,” according to the Mayo Clinic’s informational page on ricin. “No widely available, reliable test exists to confirm exposure to ricin. There’s no vaccine or antidote for ricin poisoning. Treatment is primarily supportive care.”
According to the Associated Press, several public officials have been the subject of attempted ricin poisonings in the past decade.
A Navy veteran was arrested in 2018 and confessed to sending envelopes to Trump and members of his administration that contained the substance from which ricin is derived. The letters were intercepted, and no one was hurt.
In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after sending letters dusted with ricin to President Barack Obama and other officials.
Back in 2019, a man was sentenced for sending home-made explosives to multiple Democratic public officials and prominent public figures ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. All of the devices failed to explode.