Screening for Poisons, Explosives in Mail a Daily Reality After U.S. Threats

In response to the threat of explosives and hazardous substances, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a number of teams that use of portable X-ray machines and other measures to investigate suspicious parcels, the agency said in a statement.

“The U.S. Postal Service has developed a comprehensive approach to protecting the mail system by utilizing a targeted strategy of specialized technology, screening protocols and employee training,” it said.

The statement declined to give details on other strategies used by the Postal Inspection Service, citing concerns against compromising its methods.

For corporate headquarters in the United States, other security measures are often in place to guard against dangers in the mail, said Hugh O’Rourke, vice president of consulting services for the MSA Security firm.

Those may include a safe box a person can use to open a suspicious letter by using rubber gloves while looking through Plexiglas, O’Rourke said.

A number of companies also use X-ray machines to allow operators, who are sometimes security experts looking at a monitor from an off-site location, to see what is inside a parcel, O’Rourke said.

Some companies find it essential to process their mail at a safe location before bringing it to their headquarters, O’Rourke said.

In other cases, the processing center may be a basement room with negative air pressure flow to keep toxins from spreading to other areas, he said.

Despite such advances, technology to screen for dangerous mail is not in use everywhere.

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