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Substance found at United Nations not toxic, police say

  • Story Highlights
  • In August, archivists thought they'd found phosgene, a choking agent, at the U.N.
  • The substance was tested and determined to be a commercial solvent
  • After the August discovery, a small area of the U.N. was evacuated
  • Air tests in the building found no toxic vapor, a U.N. spokeswoman said
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From Mythili Rao
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A substance removed from the United Nations office last week is not a toxic chemical agent, police and a U.N. official told CNN on Thursday.

A substance found in August at the U.N. was determined not to be toxic, but a harmless commercial solvent.

Tests at a military facility in Maryland identified the substance as a nontoxic commercial solvent, said Paul J. Brown, deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department.

In late August, U.N. archivists unexpectedly turned up samples of material from an Iraqi chemical weapons plant in 1996.

Accompanying paperwork identified the substance as phosgene, a choking agent used in World War I.

The sealed samples were removed from the U.N. offices, and a small area in the vicinity of the sixth-floor offices was evacuated. Tests of air samples in the building found no toxic vapor, said U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe.

"We've made an immediate sweep of all of our archival materials to make sure we have no more surprises, and we don't," U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission official Brain Mullady said. "This is it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Deb Feyerick and Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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