Ricin Lectin A (RCA-1) Sample

The Department of Environmental Health & Safety (DEHS) received a call from a student who had purchased a material that was labeled infectious and wanted guidance on how to use it. The material was Lectin-Agarose from Ricinus communis (castor bean). This lectin is one of the proteins that makes up the ricin toxin (which consists of four different proteins). The MSDS lists the material as highly toxic.

DEHS made calls to the manufacturer for further information. The material was indeed a ricin component and was listed in the manufacturer's system as a select agent. There are quantity stipulations on this material which affects the select agent classification.

The MSDS states that the ceiling exposure limit is 0.00006 mg. It also recommends wearing a self contained breathing apparatus while handling the material and using it only in an enclosed system (i.e. glove box).

Due to the safety concerns, the student opted not to work with the material and DEHS secured and disposed of the material.

A few key factors should be pointed out for lessons learned.

  1. A thorough investigation of any material that is going to be purchased should be conducted before the material is ordered. If there are any questions on the use or restrictions of certain materials please contact your supervisor and DEHS for assistance.
  2. All PI's should know what is coming into and going out of their labs. These individuals are ultimately responsible. Purchase orders should be reviewed and approved for all chemicals ordered by their staff and students. In addition, highly toxic or extremely hazardous materials require the approval of your department Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO) or the University CHO, Jane J. Frank.
  3. To review biological materials and chemicals that are considered highly hazardous or that may be used in terrorism please refer to the Centers for Disease Control web site http://www.selectagents.gov or contact DEHS at our web site http://www.udel.edu/EHS.
  4. Lastly, any time a vendor requires that a certification form of any kind be signed by the purchaser in order to fulfill a purchase request DEHS or the Research Office must be contacted. Individual researchers are not permitted to make regulatory certifications on behalf of the institution without consultation of DEHS.