Detection of Acetone Processing of Castor Bean Mash for Forensic Investigation of Ricin Preparation Methods


  • Funding provided through contract AGRHSHQDC07X00451 to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

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Helen Kreuzer, Ph.D.
Chemical and Biological Signature Sciences
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
999 Battelle Blvd, MSIN P7-50
Richland, WA 99352


Abstract:  Samples containing the toxic castor bean protein ricin have been recently seized in connection with biocriminal activity. Analytical methods that enable investigators to determine how the samples were prepared and to match seized samples to potential source materials are needed. One commonly described crude ricin preparation method is acetone extraction of crushed castor beans. Here, we describe the use of solid-phase microextraction and headspace analysis to determine whether castor beans were processed by acetone extraction. We prepared acetone-extracted castor bean mash, along with controls of unextracted mash and mash extracted with nonacetone organic solvents. Samples of acetone-extracted mash and unextracted mash were stored in closed containers for up to 109 days at both room temperature and −20°C, and in open containers at room temperature for up to 94 days. Acetone-extracted bean mash could consistently be statistically distinguished from controls, even after storage in open containers for 94 days.