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White Powder Hoaxes: Faux Bioterrorism and its Costly Effects

By Shopify API March 26, 2019

Baby powder, talcum, cornstarch, ground-up antacids, dried toothpaste -- there are many things that come in the form of white powder, but how can you tell when it’s dangerous? For the most part, you can’t. Not without a series of tests run by hordes of hazmat suits working hours on end. Many white-powder cases turn out to be hoaxes, resulting in billions of dollars and hundreds of hours lost to what amounts to baby powder in an envelope. Since the anthrax attacks of 2001, when several letters containing the spores of the lethal disease were sent to various news media offices and two politicians, resulting in the death of five people and the infection of 17 others, there has been a rash of anthrax scares, though little to no genuine cases occur. Today, these false alarms occur almost weekly, in both private homes and large public corporations -- in 2014, several similar letters made their way to hotels near the Metlife Stadium just before the Super Bowl, filled with what turned out to be cornstarch. More than 800 cases take place a year in the United States alone, taking up 60 percent of the FBI’s WBM Directorate’s time. These occur almost weekly, and there’s not much we can do to stop it. After the September 11 attacks, terrorism as a whole is taken very seriously, and any minor case can turn out to be much bigger than first suspected. According to a spokesperson from the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, each response to a white powder call requires around $1,500 an hour, in addition to the salaries for each person in the 10 to 16 personnel teams. These calls can last up to two hours, and even longer when running extra tests to be absolutely positive. This doesn’t take into account the cost to companies, however, which often lose an entire day’s worth of productivity to evacuations, chemical washes, inspections, and a series of tests that often turn out negative. The odds are that every suspicious letter is not dangerous, but in a day when bio-terrorism is very real, every threat should be taken seriously. That’s why safety equipment like the PowderSafe PS 400-2 Contaminated Mail Isolation System is a way to ensure safety without sacrificing productivity. This compact, glove box is made for office use, incorporating the technology used in laboratories worldwide, it works as a compliment to x-rays and scanners and can be easily incorporated into the daily office routine. Simply place any suspicious mail items into the gastight isolation chamber. Once inside it can be easily opened in full view of the user. If a questionable substance is discovered the entire chamber can be placed in the Powdersafe transportation case for removal. Lightweight and portable, the Powder Safe is the perfect safety measure that doesn’t interfere with the workplace. The PowderSafe PS 400-2 provides security as well as piece of mind making it easy to deal with potential hazards without disrupting the workflow or inconveniencing yourself or the authorities.

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