Washington—The U.S. Postal Service is deploying new technology to neutralize anthrax that might move through the mail. The technology, called irradiation, already is used successfully to fight bacteria in the food supply. “This new technology won’t be cheap, but we are committed to spending what it takes to make the mail safe,” Postmaster General Jack Potter said in a statement. The agency plans to fund its investments with $175 million in emergency funding that President Bush authorized on Oct. 23 as well as with money it will seek from Congress (see related story, “USPS Seeks Bailout from Congress”).
Among other actions the agency is taking, it will provide employees who process mail with masks and gloves for their protection if they choose to use them. The USPS is also establishing field command centers that employees can notify if they are admitted to a hospital. This will allow the Postal Service to quickly identify any patterns of medical problems.
In addition, the USPS is changing the procedures it uses to clean mail-sorting equipment. The agency is installing vacuuming equipment exclusively for cleaning the equipment to absorb dust and other particles. Postal facilities will also use stronger, antibacterial cleaning chemicals as part of routine maintenance. And supervisors and postmasters will continue to give mandatory stand-up talks to employees to provide the information they need to stay safe.