- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday said the toxic gas it pumped into Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office two weeks ago failed to kill every anthrax spore in the office.

Nine of 380 sterile gauze wipe samples taken from the office in the Hart Senate Office Building tested positive for anthrax exposure after chlorine dioxide was pumped in on Dec. 1.

Before the gas was pumped in, EPA technicians placed 2,994 Band-Aid-sized test strips each one treated with a bacteria culture believed to be stronger than anthrax throughout the office. After the fumigation, the strips were collected to determine whether the gas killed the bacteria.

But the gas had never been tested on the strips before the test. EPA spokesman Richard Rupert said when technicians collected the strips last week, they discovered the strips themselves may have prevented the gas from properly killing the test bacteria.

"We're doing things people haven't done before, and we're finding out that the chlorine dioxide did not permeate the strips properly," he told reporters at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Rupert said government scientists believe the gas worked well enough in Mr. Daschle's office to start pumping it last night into part of the Hart building's ventilation system.

"To get the level of [anthrax] kill we got with this application is very good," Mr. Rupert said. "It looks like we're getting a much higher kill rate than the strips may indicate.

"There's a couple of Ph.D.s that are hammering away right now, trying to figure out [what went wrong with the strips]," he said.

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