Safe mail handling procedures tackle massive powder-laced letter hoax

A North Texas man made headlines recently following his arrest for allegedly mailing more than 500 letters containing a non-toxic white powdery substance to schools, government offices, day care centers, and hotels across the nation, as well as U.S. Embassies abroad.

This story comes on the heels of a similar case where a female actress pled guilty to mailing letters laced with the biological toxin ricin to top government officials. Both cases shine a light on the importance of safe mail handling procedures.

US MailAccording to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Interagency Security Committee (ISC), the U.S. government processes hundreds of billions of pieces of mail each year. While most pieces are handled without incident, the threat of biological or explosive material is real, thus federal agencies must prepare for the worst case scenario.

“Implementing anticipatory measures is more likely to mitigate the negative effects of an event.” – U.S. Interagency Security Committee

The ISC compiled a document entitled Best Practices for Safe Mail Handling. This document makes numerous safety and preventative recommendations for mail processing facilities including basic and enhanced steps for mail handling operations.

One recommended enhanced step involves engineering safety controls such as down draft tables, separate air filtration units, and a safe air room for mail processing. The ISC states that “engineering controls provide the best means of preventing worker exposure to potential hazardous aerosolized particles.” The ISC further recommends the following engineering controls:

  • An industrial vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter for cleaning high-speed, mail-sorting machinery and local exhaust ventilation at pinch roller areas.
  • Filtered exhaust hoods installed in areas where dust is generated.
  • Air curtains (using laminar flow) installed in areas where large amounts of mail are processed.
  • Filters installed in the building’s HVAC systems to capture aerosolized spores.

While explosives are a major threat, powder and air contaminates can be just as dangerous. Even the slightest agitation can make fine particulate matter airborne, compromising the room air and potentially exposing workers to inhalation of hazardous toxins.

Modular, HEPA-filtered containment systems

MailSafetyHoodSentry Air Systems offers a variety of engineering safety control solutions that are modular, portable, energy-efficient and easy to use.

Our most popular solution is a Ductless Containment Hood. The hood comes in a variety of sizes and is equipped with a powerful fan that pulls powder and particulate away from the operator’s breathing zone and into the HEPA filter chamber. The filter arrests these hazardous particles before they are able to recirculate into the ambient room air.

The variable speed knob gives the operator control over the amount of airflow, and optional vinyl strip curtains can attach to the lid opening for greater particulate control.

For environments that require exhaust through a building’s HVAC system or direct external venting, the same containment hood can be outfitted with our plenum attachment for easy ducting. The modular design of our hoods allows for easy integration into most environments and can easily be modified for unique applications.

Sentry Air Systems Fume Hood with Plenum

Sentry Air Systems Downdraft BenchAn alternate option is a down draft table for oversized or bulk packages. These negative pressure systems pull air through the slotted work surface and into the filter chamber before recirculating cleansed air back into the room.

Sentry Air Systems is pleased to have supplied mail processing containment hoods to a variety of state and federal agencies. For more information, you can read our other blogs relating to this topic, here.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or would like to receive a free quote, contact Sentry Air at 800.799.4609, email sales@sentryair.com, visit our website or fill out the feedback form below.

Simple and effective fume hood solutions for odor and particle containment

If you’re in the market for a fume hood, you may find that researching all of the different makes and models can be a bit overwhelming.

At Sentry Air Systems, we live by the idea of “Simple Solutions for Cleaner Air.”

Our ductless fume hoods have taken modularity and functionality to a whole new level. Their compact design, plug-and-play operation, duct-free installation, and energy-efficiency allow seamless integration into an existing work environment.

Facility Managers and Safety Professionals love our hoods because they do not require permanent installation, they are virtually maintenance free, and our superior filter media chamber captures hazardous fume and particulate at the source of emission.

Our fume hoods can be customized to fit your unique application. To see some of the customizations we have done, watch our video on YouTube.

As you can see from the graphic below, our ductless fume hoods service a wide variety of industries and applications. Whether you are solvent cleaning and need odor removal, are mixing powders and need particulate removal, or anywhere in between, Sentry’s Applications Specialists work with you to determine the most appropriate filter media combination for your application.

Sentry Air Systems Ductless Fume Hoods

As you conduct your fume hood research, be sure to include a call to Sentry Air; we’d love to talk with you and send you a free quote. We also offer a complimentary 3D graphic rendering of all custom hoods and photo realization services so you can see what your hood will look like in your work space!

Contact Sentry Air by calling 800.799.4609, email sales@sentryair.com, visit our website or fill out the feedback form below.