Powder Scares Hit Washington State, Fla.

A mail distribution facility was evacuated early Tuesday after a white powder was found among a group of envelopes, but federal sources said comprehensive tests showed no signs of any biotoxins.


TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- A mail distribution facility was evacuated early Tuesday after a white powder was found among a group of envelopes, but federal sources said comprehensive tests showed no signs of any biotoxins.

Elsewhere, six workers were taken to a hospital Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla., after they were exposed to an unknown white powder when they opened a Postal Service mail container that was unloaded from a FedEx plane that arrived from Memphis, Tenn.

Tacoma Fire Department Capt. Jolene Davis said the material there was found about 12:45 a.m. on a mail processing table.

Four people who were close to it were decontaminated as a precaution and taken to a hospital for checkups, she said. They were released by late morning.

Two federal officials, one at Homeland Security and one at the Department of Health and Human Services, said comprehensive testing showed no signs of any biotoxins in the powder.

Samples were being sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for a final review, one official said.

Depending on additional test results, the mail center could be reopened later in the day, Davis said.

Postal Inspector Jeff Scobba said no threats had been received.

Scobba said all 12 envelopes in the area of the powder were bagged. One was addressed to the U.S. State Department and another to police in the town of Sequim, but Scobba said it was not known whether those two were specifically affected.

The powder found in Florida was being tested, but it was not immediately known if it was toxic, said Southwest Florida International Airport spokeswoman Laska Ryan.

Students at three elementary schools near the airport were kept inside for more than three hours as a precaution.

One of those taken to a hospital complained of a burning sensation in his nose, said Paul Filla, a spokesman for the Lee County Emergency Management Service. FedEx spokeswoman Pam Roberson said the treated workers all worked for the Postal Service.

Associated Press writer John J. Lumpkin contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.