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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.