Employees at Councilman Joe Addabbo's (D-Howard Beach) district office had a scare last week when one worker was taken to the hospital after she was exposed to a suspicious white powder in a package, the councilman said.
The unidentified staff member was working at 159-53 102nd St. in Howard Beach March 12 when she felt the strange powder on her hand and then got queasy, Addabbo said. She was later taken by authorities to Jamaica Hospital who said the powder was a standard substance used to ensure leaflets do not stick together in postal packages.
"We were taking every precaution. (Police) treated this just like an anthrax incident," Addabbo said. "To err on the side of caution was the right thing to do here."
The councilman said the package contained leaflets he was planning to use at a later date. Addabbo, who said authorities tested the employee's clothes for any signs of anthrax, contacted the printer of the leaflets who reassured him the powder was not toxic or harmful.
The councilman said his two other office employees experienced no problems and managed to start normal operations at the district headquarters just a few hours later.
The Police Department said it would not comment on whether it has a standard procedure for dealing with suspicious letters or packages.
"We investigate each incident and see whether there is anything to it," a NYPD spokeswoman said.
According to its Web site, the department advises anyone who believes he or she has received a suspicious letter or package to cover the item, avoid shaking or emptying it and then leave the room or close a door to section off other areas from possible contamination.
Cops said a suspicious package could be a letter or package with no return address, a strange odor, excessive tape or string, or uneven address information.
Authorities also advise people to turn off fans or ventilation systems in the area where the package was opened and then wash their hands with soap and water. Cops said anyone believing they received something suspicious in the mail should call 911.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 156
©2003 Community News Group
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