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Postal Workers: Mail Not Safe From Anthrax

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posted on Dec, 1 2003 @ 04:03 PM
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November 30, 2003
Timothy W. Maier
2003 News World Communications Inc.

It's been more than two years since the anthrax attacks struck fear into everyone who opened a mailbox. While the federal government has remained relatively silent about the safety of the mail, many postal workers insist the mail is not safe.

The probability of getting an anthrax-laced letter may for the moment be up there with winning the lottery, but the government has done little if anything to monitor consumer mail, according to interviews with postal employees. Home remedies such as baking the mail at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or nuking it in a microwave, have been suggested as possible means to kill the spores, but scientists warn this could lead to fires and will not necessarily kill anthrax.

Postal workers say not even the government mail is as safe as Congress has been led to believe. Only first-class mail addressed to government offices with ZIP codes beginning with 202-205 are being irradiated with biohazard-detection technologies. Even this has produced only mixed results, and at a cost of $10 million a year. Officials at the Library of Congress say that some of the irradiated mail sent there has been difficult to read and looks to have been aged 125 years by the process.

Even so, much of the mail sent to the government is not being irradiated. Agencies including the National Security Agency, the CIA, the National Ground Intelligence Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are on their own. While postal management insists parcels sent to Congress and the White House are being put through X-ray irradiation machines, postal employees such as clerk Dena Briscoe tell Insight the parcels are not being checked.

"The irradiation is the biggest joke of the entire thing," adds mail handler Vincent Gagnon. "The government mail is commingled with the other mail. The mail is not safe. It's not safe at all."



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