- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Results from the test fumigation of the U.S. Postal Service's Brentwood facility are two weeks late, and there is still no word on when they will arrive.
The Postal Service conducted a test fumigation of a 29,000-cubic-foot area in the Brentwood facility on July 29. At that time, officials said the test results would be returned in seven to 10 days.
The Postal Service sent 900 test strips to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labratory in Atlanta. When they are returned, cleanup officials will know how many anthrax spores remain, which will help them plan the large scale fumigation accordingly, said Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yakley.
"We can't go forward until we know the results of the test. The dates keep falling away," said Ms. Yakley, adding that the emergence of the West Nile virus as a major health concern has taken top priority for the CDC and occupied much of its attention.
But the Postal Service is pushing to get things done, she said.
"We've been impatient since October," Ms. Yakley said. "We've been trying to get this done for almost a year."
"Our message and our motto has been not to do it fast, but to do it right."
Meanwhile, the Postal Service has maintained that the use of chlorine dioxide gas is the most effective way of ridding Brentwood of anthrax.
The chlorine dioxide gas will fully eradicate the Brentwood facility of anthrax spores, said Postal Service spokesman Jerry Kreinkemp.
A panel of experts assembled by the Postal Service to review scientific testimony and evidence decided corporately to use chlorine dioxide in the cleanup.
But the effectiveness of chlorine dioxide gas has been questioned since it was used to fumigate the Hart Building in December.
The Environmental Protection Agency's ombudsman, Robert Martin, wrote a memo in January to members of Congress saying that safer, nonchemical solutions could have been used for the cleanup at the Hart Building, and for less money.
Hugh Kaufman, chief investigator for Mr. Martin, said those alternatives were not looked at by the EPA in the winter, and are still not being looked at, although he does not know why.
"It may be that they don't want to rock the boat and embarass themselves by doing something different than what they did at Hart," said Mr. Kaufman.
"If they do something different that's not going to look too good Bureacracies don't like to embarass themselves."
Questions also are being raised about the potential growth of toxic mold in the spacious building as a result of the fumigation. Chlorine dioxide must achieve a thick, fog-like state consisting of 200,000 gallons of water for every 2,000 pounds of chorine to kill anthrax.
The process may lead to mold, a growing national health concern and litigation lightning rod. Mold often grows indoors in places where there is moisture or water and is capable of producing toxic compounds, according to Robert B. Simmons, a biology professor at Georgia State University.
Mold's most common threat is to produce volatile organic compounds, which are small, airborne molecules that can cause headaches, runny noses and burning eyes similar symptoms to those described in January and February by more than 100 congressional staffers re-entering buildings on Capitol Hill that had been cleaned of anthrax.
Although the symptoms largely were blamed on irradiated government mail a security precaution implemented in the wake of the anthrax attacks a federal task force organized by the Senate Sergeant at Arms to investigate the symptoms concluded there was no obvious cause.
Gary Green, the general counsel for the Office of Compliance, an independedent regulatory agency that has juristiction on Capitol Hill, says finding out what caused the symptoms would require further investigation.
In the Hart Senate Office Building the only place on Capitol Hill where chlorine dioxide fumigation was used to kill anthrax there were 50 "building-related" health complaints between the day the building re-opened on Jan. 22 and Feb. 4, according to the attending physician to Congress.
Mr. Kreinkemp said the building will be dehumidified after the fumigation to remove all moisture, and that the chlorine dioxide gas will kill all fungi or mold.
Scientists consulting the Postal Service also have argued that bacterial or mold spores will not germinate unless the relative humidity is 80 percent to 90 percent, and that the building's relative humidity will be kept much lower than that.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide