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Anthrax found at one New Jersey mail center, cyanide in Newark

TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- A mail processing facility in Camden County has tested positive for the presence of anthrax in testing conducted by the FBI, state health officials said Saturday, while a letter found in a Newark postal facility was found to contain cyanide, a postal official said.

A statement from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services said final tests were conclusive for anthrax on one sample taken from the Bellmawr Mail Distribution Center. All other samples taken came up negative through final testing.

The environmental sampling was conducted October 31 after an employee at the Bellmawr facility was diagnosed with a suspected case of cutaneous, or skin, anthrax.

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday that the employee was still considered a suspected case and not a confirmed case. The employee is a mail processor who works on machines that read bar codes and optical sorting machines.

Five other cases of anthrax -- two inhalation and three cutaneous -- have been reported in the Trenton area, in central New Jersey. Four of those are postal workers; the other is an area resident.

Meanwhile, U.S. Postal Inspector spokesman Tony Esposito said Saturday a letter leaking a powdery substance at the Newark Plant and Distribution postal facility was found to contain trace amounts of copper cyanide.

He said an employee noticed the substance coming from the envelope Friday night and reported it to her supervisor. The area was immediately cordoned off and postal inspectors and other investigators were called in.

Esposito said the Newark Department of Environmental Protection found that the substance contained laundry detergent, a bleach powder and trace amounts of copper cyanide. Copper cyanide is used for copper electroplating and can be fatal if large amounts are inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.

Officials from the NDEP said the trace amount found in the powder was not considered a threat.

The FBI, postal inspectors, New Jersey state police and the Newark arson squad were all investigating the suspicious letter, which did not have a return address.

So far, postal inspectors across the country have arrested 18 people for anthrax hoaxes, Esposito said, and another 14 cases are pending.


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