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Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014

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Sanitized mail being delivered to campus

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has provided information regarding the mail pieces that were held at the contaminated Hamilton postal facility. All mail pieces have been or will be irradiated at a facility in Bridgeport, NJ. A team of scientific experts found the irradiation process to be effective in destroying anthrax and recommended releasing this mail for delivery after it has been treated. This team has assured the USPS that the mail pieces are safe to handle.

As a precautionary measure to ensure the integrity of this process, USPS will put all letter mail pieces in a clear plastic bag and labels on packages and flats to alert customers that the specific mail piece was irradiated and is safe to handle. While we have been assured the irradiation process itself is safe, it can cause some damage to some products that contained within this mail. The products, identified by the scientific team, should not be used if they were contained in a package or envelope that has been irradiated. The products should be discarded and replacements should be obtained. The products identified and the impact on them are:

  • Any biological sample , such as blood, fecal samples, etc.,which could be rendered useless by the process.
  • Diagnostic kits , such as those used to monitor blood sugar levels, which could be adversely affected.
  • Photographic film , which is exposed by irradiation.
  • Food , which is adversely affected.
  • Drugs and medicines , which may be rendered useless and potentially made dangerous by the process.
  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses , which could be adversely affected.
  • Electronic devices , which would likely be inoperable.

The postmaster estimates that a substantial amount of the mail that went through the irradiation process is destined for the University. The process of distributing this mail is expected to take weeks. There are more than 13 tractor-trailers worth of mail that went through the irradiation process. This mail is no longer machine compatible, therefore it all has to be hand sorted. In addition, when it is received by a local post office, the local post office will have to put the piece in a plastic bag or place a label on the piece. Also, the irradiation process caused damage to some of the mail pieces i.e., window envelope shrinkage.

USPS was assured this mail is safe to handle, otherwise it would not be released for distribution. However, while the irradiation process has proven successfulin destroying anthrax, if your mail contains any suspicious substances or still meets the criteria of suspicious mail, we urge you to set the mail piece aside and contact Public Safety. We have no reason to believe that these mail pieces are unsafe to handle but we all should be prudent in handling this mail as well as all other mail pieces we receive on a daily basis.

Finally, University students and other casual employees continue to be prohibited from engaging in the mail handling and sorting operations. Information about proper procedures remains available on the Universitys crisis response Web site.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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