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ABRIN : Biotoxin

CAS #: 1393-62-0

RTECS #: AA5250000

UN #: 3462 (Guide 153)

Common Names:

  • Agglutinin
  • Crab's eyes
  • Indian licorice seed
  • Prayer bead
  • Toxalbumin
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Agent Characteristics

  • APPEARANCE: White to yellowish white powder.
  • DESCRIPTION: Abrin is an extremely toxic plant protein derived from the seeds of the plant Abrus precatorius. Abrin, like the similar plant toxin ricin, causes toxicity by inhibiting the formation (synthesis) of proteins in the cells of the exposed individual. Abrin (and ricin) may cause severe allergic reactions. Exposure to even a small amount of abrin may be fatal.
  • METHODS OF DISSEMINATION:
    • Indoor Air: Abrin can be released into indoor air as fine particles (aerosol).
    • Water: Abrin can be used to contaminate water.
    • Food: Abrin can be used to contaminate food.
    • Outdoor Air: Abrin can be released into outdoor air as fine particles (aerosol).
    • Agricultural: If abrin is released into the air as fine particles (aerosol), it has the potential to contaminate agricultural products.
  • ROUTES OF EXPOSURE: Abrin can be absorbed into the body through ingestion, inhalation, or eye contact. Abrin can be absorbed through abraded skin or through wounds, but probably not through intact skin, unless it is carried in a solvent that enhances absorption. Abrin can also be transmitted through the skin via small pellets or projectiles designed to carry toxin.
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Personal Protective Equipment

  • GENERAL INFORMATION: First Responders should use a NIOSH-certified Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) with a Level A protective suit when entering an area with an unknown contaminant or when entering an area where the concentration of the contaminant is unknown. Level A protection should be used until monitoring results confirm the contaminant and the concentration of the contaminant.
    NOTE: Safe use of protective clothing and equipment requires specific skills developed through training and experience.
  • LEVEL A: (RED ZONE): Select when the greatest level of skin, respiratory, and eye protection is required. This is the maximum protection for workers in danger of exposure to unknown chemical hazards or levels above the IDLH or greater than the AEGL-2.
    • A NIOSH-certified CBRN full-face-piece SCBA operated in a pressure-demand mode or a pressure-demand supplied air hose respirator with an auxiliary escape bottle.
    • A Totally-Encapsulating Chemical Protective (TECP) suit that provides protection against CBRN agents.
    • Chemical-resistant gloves (outer).
    • Chemical-resistant gloves (inner).
    • Chemical-resistant boots with a steel toe and shank.
    • Coveralls, long underwear, and a hard hat worn under the TECP suit are optional items.
  • LEVEL B: (RED ZONE): Select when the highest level of respiratory protection is necessary but a lesser level of skin protection is required. This is the minimum protection for workers in danger of exposure to unknown chemical hazards or levels above the IDLH or greater than AEGL-2. It differs from Level A in that it incorporates a non-encapsulating, splash-protective, chemical-resistant splash suit that provides Level A protection against liquids but is not airtight.
    • A NIOSH-certified CBRN full-face-piece SCBA operated in a pressure-demand mode or a pressure-demand supplied air hose respirator with an auxiliary escape bottle.
    • A hooded chemical-resistant suit that provides protection against CBRN agents.
    • Chemical-resistant gloves (outer).
    • Chemical-resistant gloves (inner).
    • Chemical-resistant boots with a steel toe and shank.
    • Coveralls, long underwear, a hard hat worn under the chemical-resistant suit, and chemical-resistant disposable boot-covers worn over the chemical-resistant suit are optional items.
  • LEVEL C: (YELLOW ZONE): Select when the contaminant and concentration of the contaminant are known and the respiratory protection criteria factors for using Air Purifying Respirators (APR) or Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) are met. This level is appropriate when decontaminating patient/victims.
    • A NIOSH-certified CBRN tight-fitting APR with a canister-type gas mask or CBRN PAPR for air levels greater than AEGL-2.
    • A NIOSH-certified CBRN PAPR with a loose-fitting face-piece, hood, or helmet and a filter or a combination organic vapor, acid gas, and particulate cartridge/filter combination or a continuous flow respirator for air levels greater than AEGL-1.
    • A hooded chemical-resistant suit that provides protection against CBRN agents.
    • Chemical-resistant gloves (outer).
    • Chemical-resistant gloves (inner).
    • Chemical-resistant boots with a steel toe and shank.
    • Escape mask, face shield, coveralls, long underwear, a hard hat worn under the chemical-resistant suit, and chemical-resistant disposable boot-covers worn over the chemical-resistant suit are optional items.
  • LEVEL D: (GREEN ZONE): Select when the contaminant and concentration of the contaminant are known and the concentration is below the appropriate occupational exposure limit or less than AEGL-1 for the stated duration times.
    • Limited to coveralls or other work clothes, boots, and gloves.
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Emergency Response

  • CHEMICAL DANGERS:
    • Hazardous polymerization will not occur.
  • EXPLOSION HAZARDS:
    • Not established/determined
  • FIRE FIGHTING INFORMATION:
    • Abrin is combustible.
    • Abrin is not volatile, but it may be spread by efforts to extinguish the fire.
    • Avoid generating dust.
    • Use foam, dry chemical powder, BCF (where regulations permit), carbon dioxide, water spray or fog (large fires only).
    • If the situation allows, control and properly dispose of run-off (effluent).
  • INITIAL ISOLATION AND PROTECTIVE ACTION DISTANCES:
    • If a tank, rail car, or tank truck is involved in a fire, isolate it for 0.5 mi (800 m) in all directions; also, consider initial evacuation for 0.5 mi (800 m) in all directions.
    • This agent is not included in the DOT ERG 2004 Table of Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances.
    • In the DOT ERG 2004 orange-boarded section of the guidebook, are public safety recommendations to isolate an abrin (Guide 153) spill or leak area immediately for at least 75 ft (25 m) for solids in all directions.
  • PHYSICAL DANGERS:
    • Not established/determined
  • NFPA 704 Signal:
    • Health: Not established/determined
    • Flammability: Not established/determined
    • Reactivity: Not established/determined
    • Special: Not established/determined
  • SAMPLING AND ANALYSIS:
    • OSHA: Not established/determined
    • NIOSH: Not established/determined
  • ADDITIONAL SAMPLING AND ANALYSIS INFORMATION:
    References are provided for the convenience of the reader and do not imply endorsement by NIOSH.

    • AIR MATRIX
      No references were identified for this sampling matrix for this agent.


    • OTHER
      No references were identified for this sampling matrix for this agent.


    • SOIL MATRIX
      No references were identified for this sampling matrix for this agent.


    • SURFACES
      Herrmann MS, Behnke WD [1980]. Physical studies on three lectins from the seeds of Abrus precatorius. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)—Protein Structure 621(1):43-52.

      Herrmann MS, Behnke WD [1981]. A characterization of abrin a from the seeds of the Abrus precatorius plant. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)—Protein Structure 667(2):397-410.

      Nambiar MP, Wu HC [1995]. Ilimaquinone inhibits the cytotoxicities of ricin, diphtheria toxin, and other protein toxins in vero cell. Exp Cell Res 219(2):671-678.

      Olsnes S [1976].Abrin and ricin: structure and mechanism of action of two toxic lectins (Bull Inst Pasteur 74:85–99). Toxicon 15(2):175.

      Singh S, Singh DK [1999]. Molluscicidal activity of Abrus precatorius linn. and Argemone mexicana linn. Chemosphere 38(14):3319-3328.


    • WATER
      No references were identified for this sampling matrix for this agent.

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Signs/Symptoms

  • TIME COURSE: Physical findings and signs of abrin exposure can occur after a symptom-free (latent) period of a few hours to several days. Effects following ingestion of abrin are somewhat rapid in the beginning, generally occurring within a few hours of ingestion. Based on inhalation studies of ricin in animals, initial effects (fever, cough, and accumulation of fluid in the lungs [pulmonary edema]) are expected to occur within 18 to 24 hours; respiratory distress and death may occur within 36 to 72 hours.
  • EFFECTS OF SHORT-TERM (LESS THAN 8-HOURS) EXPOSURE: Abrin poisons the cells of the body by blocking (inhibiting) the formation (synthesis) of essential components of cells (proteins). Contact of abrin with the skin, eyes, lungs, or the moist lining of body passages and cavities (mucous membranes) can cause severe irritation, inflammation, and internal bleeding (hemorrhage). The health effects caused by abrin depend on the route of exposure and the amount of abrin to which the patient/victim is exposed. Ingestion of abrin produces severe vomiting (emesis) and diarrhea that may result in serious dehydration (hypovolemic shock) and multi-system organ failure affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, kidneys, liver and pancreas; these effects are potentially fatal. In addition to cough and fever, inhalation of abrin may cause fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and respiratory distress; these effects are potentially fatal. Illness resulting from exposure to abrin cannot be transmitted from person to person (i.e., it is not communicable).
  • EYE EXPOSURE:
    • Mild to moderate: Tear production (lacrimation); swelling, redness, and inflammation of the membranes (conjunctivitis).
    • Severe: Severe tissue destruction, possible bleeding of the membrane in the rear of the eye (retinal hemorrhage), impaired vision, and blindness.
    • Contact with the eyes may result in whole-body (systemic) toxicity and possibly death, based on studies of animals exposed to the similar plant toxin ricin.
  • INGESTION EXPOSURE:
    • Burning pain in the mouth, throat, and esophagus, nausea, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), vomiting (emesis), vomiting blood (hematemesis), diarrhea, bloody stools (melena), abdominal (epigastric) cramps/pain, severe inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestine (gastroenteritis), bleeding (hemorrhage) in the stomach and intestines, drowsiness (somnolence), disorientation, weakness, stupor, convulsions, excessive thirst (polydipsia), blood in the urine (hematuria), reduced excretion of urine (oliguria), multi-system organ failure, collapse of the blood vessels (vascular collapse), shock, and death.
  • INHALATION EXPOSURE:
    • Inhalation may cause irritation or sensitization of the respiratory tract.
    • Inhalation of abrin may cause physical findings to appear within a few hours. Those findings include difficulty breathing (respiratory distress), fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Heavy sweating, fluid build up, bluish skin (cyanosis), low blood pressure, and respiratory failure may follow and lead to death.
  • SKIN EXPOSURE:
    • The risk of toxicity from skin exposure to abrin is low.
    • Abrin may be absorbed through irritated, damaged, or injured skin or through normal skin if aided by a solvent carrier.
    • There is a potential for allergic skin reactions to occur; signs include redness (erythema), blistering (vesication), irritation, and pain.
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Decontamination

  • INTRODUCTION: The purpose of decontamination is to make an individual and/or their equipment safe by physically removing toxic substances quickly and effectively. Your Incident Commander will provide you with decontaminants specific for the agent released or the agent believed to have been released.
  • DECONTAMINATION CORRIDOR: The following are recommendations to protect the first responders from the release area:
    • Position the decontamination corridor upwind and uphill of the hot zone.
    • The warm zone should include two decontamination corridors. One decontamination corridor is used to enter the warm zone and the other for exiting the warm zone into the cold zone. The decontamination zone for exiting should be upwind and uphill from the zone used to enter.
    • Decontamination area workers should wear appropriate PPE. See the PPE section of this card for detailed information.
    • A solution of detergent and water (which should have a pH value of at least 8 but should not exceed a pH value of 10.5) should be available for use in decontamination procedures. Soft brushes should be available to remove contamination from the PPE.
    • Labeled, durable 6-mil polyethylene bags should be available for disposal of contaminated PPE.
  • INDIVIDUAL DECONTAMINATION: The following methods can be used to decontaminate an individual:
    • Decontamination of First Responder:
      • Begin washing PPE of the first responder using soap and water solution and a soft brush. Always move in a downward motion (from head to toe). Make sure to get into all areas, especially folds in the clothing. Wash and rinse (using cold or warm water) until the contaminant is thoroughly removed.
      • Remove PPE by rolling downward (from head to toe) and avoid pulling PPE off over the head. Remove the SCBA after other PPE has been removed.
      • Place all PPE in labeled durable 6-mil polyethylene bags.
    • Decontamination of Patient/Victim:
      • Remove the patient/victim from the contaminated area and into the decontamination corridor.
      • Remove all clothing (at least down to their undergarments) and place the clothing in a labeled durable 6-mil polyethylene bag.
      • Thoroughly wash and rinse (using cold or warm water) the contaminated skin of the patient/victim using a soap and water solution. Be careful not to break the patient/victim’s skin during the decontamination process, and cover all open wounds.
      • Cover the patient/victim to prevent shock and loss of body heat.
      • Move the patient/victim to an area where emergency medical treatment can be provided.
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First Aid

  • GENERAL INFORMATION: Treatment is primarily supportive.
  • ANTIDOTE: There is no antidote for abrin toxicity.
  • EYE:
    • Immediately remove the patient/victim from the source of exposure.
    • Immediately wash eyes with large amounts of tepid water for at least 15 minutes.
    • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • INGESTION:
    • Immediately remove the patient/victim from the source of exposure.
    • Ensure that the patient/victim has an unobstructed airway.
    • Do not induce vomiting (emesis).
    • Administer charcoal as a slurry (240 mL water/30 g charcoal). Usual dose: 25 to 100 g in adults/adolescents, 25 to 50 g in children (1 to 12 years), and 1 g/kg in infants less than 1 year old.
    • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • INHALATION:
    • Immediately remove the patient/victim from the source of exposure.
    • Evaluate respiratory function and pulse.
    • Ensure that the patient/victim has an unobstructed airway.
    • If shortness of breath occurs or breathing is difficult (dyspnea), administer oxygen.
    • Assist ventilation as required. Always use a barrier or bag-valve-mask device.
    • If breathing has ceased (apnea), provide artificial respiration.
    • Monitor patient/victim for signs of accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (dyspnea) and chest tightness.
    • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • SKIN:
    • Immediately remove the patient/victim from the source of exposure.
    • See the decontamination section for patient/victim decontamination procedures.
    • Seek medical attention immediately.
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Long-Term Implications

  • MEDICAL TREATMENT: If the patient/victim can be rapidly transported to an emergency department following decontamination, stomach pumping (gastric lavage) may be considered after the airway has been secured. Gastric lavage is recommended only after ingestion of a life-threatening amount of the agent, and only if it can be done shortly after ingestion (generally within 1 hour). The risk of worsening injury to the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract must be considered. Fluid and electrolyte balance should be monitored and restored if abnormal.
  • DELAYED EFFECTS OF EXPOSURE: Information is unavailable about the long term effects from exposure to abrin. However, based on its similarity to ricin, it is expected that late phase complications are related to abrin’s cell-killing (cytotoxic) effects on the liver, central nervous system (CNS), kidneys, and adrenal glands. Complications typically occur 2 to 5 days after exposure. The patient/victim may exhibit no symptoms (may be asymptomatic) during the preceding 1 to 5 days.
  • EFFECTS OF CHRONIC OR REPEATED EXPOSURE: Information is unavailable about the carcinogenicity, developmental toxicity, or reproductive toxicity from chronic or repeated exposure to abrin. Based on abrin's similarity to ricin, it is believed that chronic or repeated exposure to abrin may result in an allergic syndrome characterized by nose and throat congestion, eye itchiness and watering, chest tightness, and, in severe cases, wheezing.
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On-Site Fatalities

  • INCIDENT SITE:
    • Consult with the Incident Commander regarding the agent dispersed, dissemination method, level of PPE required, location, geographic complications (if any), and the approximate number of remains.
    • Coordinate responsibilities and prepare to enter the scene as part of the evaluation team along with the FBI HazMat Technician, local law enforcement evidence technician, and other relevant personnel.
    • Begin tracking remains using waterproof tags.
  • RECOVERY AND ON-SITE MORGUE:
    • Wear PPE until all remains are deemed free of contamination.
    • Establish a preliminary (holding) morgue.
    • Gather evidence, and place it in a clearly labeled impervious container. Hand any evidence over to the FBI.
    • Remove and tag personal effects.
    • Perform a thorough external evaluation and a preliminary identification check.
    • See the Decontamination section for decontamination procedures.
    • Decontaminate remains before they are removed from the incident site.
See Guidelines for Mass Fatality Management During Terrorist Incidents Involving Chemical Agents, U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM), November, 2001 for detailed recommendations.
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Occupational Exposure Limits

  • NIOSH REL:
    • Not established/determined
  • OSHA PEL:
    • Not established/determined
  • ACGIH TLV:
    • Not established/determined
  • NIOSH IDLH: Not established/determined
  • DOE TEEL:
    • TEEL-0: Not established/determined. See Occupational Exposure Limits DOE TEEL-0 value for ricin, which may provide an approximate value for abrin.
    • TEEL-1: Not established/determined. See Occupational Exposure Limits DOE TEEL-1 value for ricin, which may provide an approximate value for abrin.
    • TEEL-2: Not established/determined. See Occupational Exposure Limits DOE TEEL-2 value for ricin, which may provide an approximate value for abrin.
    • TEEL-3: Not established/determined. See Occupational Exposure Limits DOE TEEL-3 value for ricin, which may provide an approximate value for abrin.
  • AIHA ERPG:
    • ERPG-1: Not established/determined
    • ERPG-2: Not established/determined
    • ERPG-3: Not established/determined
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Acute Exposure Guidelines

 5 min10 min30 min1 hr4 hr8 hr
AEGL 1
(discomfort, non-disabling) - mg/m3
Not established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determined
AEGL 2
(irreversible or other serious, long-lasting effects or impaired ability to escape) - mg/m3
Not established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determined
AEGL 3
(life-threatening effects or death) - mg/m3
Not established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determinedNot established/ determined
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Decontamination (Environment and Equipment)

  • ENVIRONMENT/SPILLAGE DISPOSAL: The following methods can be used to decontaminate the environment/spillage disposal:
    • Do not touch or walk through the spilled agent if at all possible. However, if you must, personnel should wear the appropriate PPE during environmental decontamination. See the PPE section of this card for detailed information.
    • Keep combustibles (e.g., wood, paper, and oil) away from the spilled agent.
    • Use water spray to reduce vapors or divert vapor cloud drift. Avoid allowing water runoff to contact the spilled agent.
    • Do not direct water at the spill or the source of the leak.
    • If leaking occurs, stop the leak if it is possible to do so without risk to personnel.
    • Prevent entry into waterways, sewers, basements, or confined areas.
    • Ventilate the area.
  • EQUIPMENT: Agents can seep into the crevices of equipment making it dangerous to handle. The following methods can be used to decontaminate equipment:
    • Not established/determined
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Agent Properties

  • Chemical Formula:
    Not established/determined
  • Aqueous solubility:
    Slightly soluble
  • Boiling Point:
    Decomposes: 176°F (80°C) most of the toxicity is lost in 30 minutes.
    Stable: 140°F (60°C) for 30 minutes.
  • Density:
    Not established/determined
  • Flammability:
    Not established/determined
  • Flashpoint:
    Not established/determined
  • Ionization potential:
    Not established/determined
  • Log Kbenzene-water:
    Not established/determined
  • Log Kow (estimated):
    Not established/determined
  • Melting Point:
    Not established/determined
  • Molecular Mass:
    63,000 to 67,000
  • Soluble In:
    Sodium chloride solution with turbidity
  • Specific Gravity:
    Not established/determined
  • Vapor Pressure:
    68°F (20°C): Negligible
  • Volatility:
    Negligible
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Hazardous Materials Warning Labels/Placards

  • Shipping Name:
    Toxins, extracted from living sources, solid, n.o.s.
  • Identification Number:
    3462 (Guide 153)
  • Hazardous Class or Division:
    6.1
  • Subsidiary Hazardous Class or Division:
  • Label:
    Poison (Toxic)
    PG III
  • Placard Image:
    dot_class6_pgiii dot_class6_poison dot_class6_toxic
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Trade Names and Other Synonyms

  • Abrins
  • Abrus precatorius seed
  • Aivoeiro
  • Arraccu-mitim
  • Buddhist rosary bead
  • Carolina muida
  • Deadly crab's eye
  • Indian bead
  • Jequirite
  • Jequirity Bean
  • Jumble bead
  • Juquiriti
  • Lucky bean
  • Precatory bean
  • Rosary beads
  • Rosary Pea
  • Ruti
  • Tentos da America
  • Tentos dos mundos
  • Weather plant
  • Wild licorice
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Who to Contact in an Emergency

In the event of a poison emergency, call the poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. If the person who is poisoned cannot wake up, has a hard time breathing, or has convulsions, call 911 emergency services.

For information on who to contact in an emergency, see the CDC website at http://emergency.cdc.gov/emcontact/index.asp or call the CDC public response hotline at (888) 246-2675 (English), (888) 246-2857 (Español), or (866) 874-2646 (TTY).

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Important Notice

The user should verify compliance of the cards with the relevant STATE or TERRITORY legislation before use. NIOSH, CDC 2003.

 
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