Mail irradiation causes fire

Sally Shelton Shelton.Sally at NMNH.SI.EDU
Fri Dec 7 16:10:43 CST 2001

Posted by Liz Dietrich. 

<Note: While the accident in question only affected letters, flats and magazines already quarantined at the NJ site, this does serve as yet another reason why important mail to the SI and other Federal addresses in the DC area should not be sent via USPS at this time.>

Sally Y. Shelton
Collections Officer
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC   20560-0107
phone (202) 786-2601, FAX (202) 786-2328
email Shelton.Sally at

List owner, PERMIT-L

>>> Dietrich.E at NMNH.SI.EDU 3:48:20 PM Friday, December 07, 2001 >>>
Please see this website RE: Mail irradiation causes fire 

Story below:

Mail being irradiated for anthrax catches fire at New Jersey plant; 90 pounds of mail destroyed

The Associated Press
12/7/01 12:59 PM

BRIDGEPORT, N.J. (AP) -- Batches of mail being treated with radiation to eliminate possible anthrax contamination caught fire, apparently because some material overheated, officials said Friday.

Hundreds of large envelopes and magazines -- 90 pounds in all -- were destroyed during two small  fires, one Thursday and one early Friday, the Postal Service said.

 "Our engineers believe both incidents are linked to material present in the mail which cause overheating during radiation exposure," said John Gilbert, spokesman for Ion Beam Applications, which operates the plant where the irradiation is being done. "We feel these two incidents are regrettable but expected."

There were no injuries or damage to the plant.

Since mid-November, the plant has been irradiating mail quarantined from the Hamilton Post Office, which closed in October after the office was found to have handled at least four contaminated letters.

All quarantined letters were sanitized last month, and the plant is now handling magazines and large envelopes, Postal Service spokesman Carl Walton said.

Officials declined to specify what materials might have overheated to cause the fires, saying they did not want to give information to potential saboteurs.

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